Interest rates are a tool that central banks use to implement monetary policy. They represent the percentage rate at which interest is paid by a borrower for the privilege of using money that has been lent to them and the interest can be paid at various time intervals. Higher interest rates will have an impact upon inflation and employment and could lead to a reduction in consumer spending and investment. The Bank of England meets every month to set the UK bank rate. There are nine members of the Committee and they are appraised of all the latest data on the economy and business conditions. Their task is to keep inflation below 2% but above 1% in the following 2 years.
In the UK the current ...view middle of the document...
Britain's economy is growing faster than any of the other Group of Seven countries at an annual rate of 3% and it is not clear what impact an interest rate rise would have on the economy after the long recession.
Charlie Bean has suggested that any rises are in "baby steps" in order to avoid making mistakes. In other words he thinks the Bank should be cautious - this could entail raising rates soon - but at a smaller rate than has been implemented in the past, for instance at a rate of increase of 0.1% instead of the previous normal rate of 0.25%.
It is generally accepted that low interest rates are inflationary and the Bank will be watching for early signs that this is happening and try to move interest rates up early to forestall it. Generally they would raise interest rates if they were concerned that inflation was on the increase in order to reduce demand and slow the rate of economic growth. At the present time there are no signs that inflation is picking up with the latest CPI figure coming in at 1.8% which may be attributable to the output gap.
Interest rate movements have the largest impact for individuals on savings, mortgages and annuities, whilst for businesses it impacts the level of demand, interest on loans and the present value of assets and liabilities.
Over the last 5 years savers have been badly hit by the low level of interest rates. This has been particularly hard for pensioners with savings. Higher interest rates would make it more attractive to save cash in deposit accounts as the level of interest received would be higher than at present, thus reducing the need to take on extra risk to earn a decent reward.
At the same time interest payments on credit cards and loans would increase making them more expensive to use and would act as a disincentive. Those who have existing loans may find them harder to finance due to higher interest payments and this could reduce their spending in other...