Interest rates will most likely go down by the end of 2024.
The trajectory of interest rates remains a central concern for both individuals and businesses alike. The Bank of England's persistent string of consecutive interest rate hikes has been an attempt to rein in high inflation. It's important to note that this uphill climb has not been without its consequences.
As savings rates have climbed, the cost of mortgages has followed suit, leaving many to ponder the ever-elusive question: When will interest rates finally fall?
Due to a recent decline in inflation, the Bank of England opted to maintain the current base interest rate of 5.25% during its November meeting. This decision mirrors the one made in September and follows the base rate increase from 5% to 5.25% in the August meeting.
For individuals navigating the financial landscape with a fixed-rate mortgage approaching maturity or those reliant on standard variable-rate or tracker mortgages, the hope for more affordable borrowing costs is tangible. Prospective homebuyers on the hunt for mortgage deals eagerly await favorable rates that align with their financial goals.
To discern when interest rates may dip, it's crucial to grasp the reasons behind their ascent. One of the Bank of England's roles is to maintain the annual CPI rate of inflation around 2%. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 4.6% in the 12 months to October 2023, down from 6.7% in September, and from a recent peak of 11.1% in October 2022. The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee can adjust the base rate in response to economic shifts, aiming to either stimulate or dampen borrowing activity. Higher interest rates lead to pricier debt, while savings accounts yield better returns. This shift intends to curb spending and encourage saving, subsequently reducing demand and eventually lowering prices, thus addressing inflation.
The Bank of England is vigilant about the wage-price spiral, wherein robust employment conditions empower workers to demand higher wages to match the cost of living. As businesses adjust by raising prices, inflation can persist. However, factors beyond the Bank's control, such as supply shortages due to global events and economic disruptions, also contribute to the inflationary landscape.
Despite sustained interest rate hikes, inflation has not shown a significant decline. Critics argue that continuing to raise rates may not be the path to resolving high inflation. "The Bank of England has put up interest rates hoping to bring inflation under control, but without success," states Dr. Tony Syme, an economics expert at the University of Salford. He asserts that it's time for a different approach.
While the future trajectory of interest rates remains uncertain, a clear pattern emerges. Until inflation subsides, the Bank of England is unlikely to lower the base rate, as it seeks to avoid fueling higher spending and exacerbating inflation. Nonetheless, the current level of rates is unsustainable, pressuring households and potentially leading to economic repercussions.
The Bank anticipates a significant drop in inflation throughout the remainder of 2023, potentially signaling an end to the series of rate increases. Financial markets, however, expect the base interest rate to continue its ascent, potentially peaking around 5.75% in early 2024. The timeline for rate reductions depends on the pace of inflation moderation. Governor Andrew Bailey warns that rate cuts should not be anticipated until there's "solid evidence" of inflation deceleration.
As the average two-year fixed-rate mortgage surges from its 2021 low of 2% to 6.85% in August, the resulting increased monthly costs may compel homeowners to sell their properties. Prospective first-time buyers also grapple with affordability constraints due to higher mortgage expenses. Sinking house prices could even trigger a property market downturn, potentially plunging households into negative equity.
Amid these challenges, the government evaluates ways to support mortgage customers. Some homeowners may qualify for Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI), a government loan that aids with mortgage interest repayments. Yet, the broader landscape remains complex, with diverse economic factors at play.
The journey of interest rates, inflation, and their interconnected consequences is complex and multifaceted. As the Bank of England endeavors to steer the financial ship through stormy waters, the uncertainty of when interest rates will fall underscores the intricate interplay of economic forces. The road ahead requires vigilance, agility, and a deep understanding of the intricate web of factors shaping our financial landscape.