Today (07/04/11) as expected the European Central Bank (ECB) has raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25% to 1.25%, the first such increase since July 2008. The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold for the 25th month at their historic low of 0.5% and the Bank’s Quantitative Easing Asset Purchase Programme remains at £200bn.
The focus will now shift to the release of the minutes (due 20th April) of today’s BoE Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting to see if any further MPC members have been swayed to the rate hike camp. At the previous meeting in March, six members voted to keep rates on hold whilst three members voted for an increase in interest rates. The conflict between above target inflation coupled with weak economic growth making the Bank’s decision difficult. The market will also seek further clarity on the future direction of ECB interest rates as there had been some suggestions that the hike today may be the first of a gradual increase in ECB interest rates.
Typically, as a central bank increases interest rates their currency will appreciate as global investors seek a higher yielding currency. The widening interest rate differential between the BoE and ECB has been a major contributing factor to Sterling’s relative weakness against the Euro despite the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis.
Comparative World Interest Rates
Bank of Japan: 0.1%
Federal Reserve (USA): 0.25%
Swiss National Bank: 0.25%
Bank of England: 0.5%
Bank of Canada: 1%
European Central Bank: 1.25%
The Reserve Bank of Australia: 4.75%
People’s Bank of China: 6.06%