The Pound has fallen today 23/03 following the release of minutes from the Bank of England showing that no further Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members shifted to the rate hike camp at the March meeting of the MPC. Despite the higher than expected inflation reading released yesterday, there is still some uncertainty surrounding how quickly the Bank will increase interest rates from their historic lows. On the interbank market the Pound trades below 1.15 against the Euro and at 1.62 against the US Dollar.
In the UK Budget, as expected chancellor George Osborne announced that the Office for Budget Responsibility cut its growth forecast for 2011 from 2.1% to 1.7%. For 2012 the forecast was also cut from 2.6% to 2.5% with growth expected at 2.9% throughout 2013-2014 and at 2.8% in 2015. The Office for Budget Responsibility also acknowledged inflation would remain significantly above the 2% target, remaining between 4-5% this year before dropping to 2.5% next year and back to target in two years.
Regarding government borrowing; the forecast for this year is £146 billion, £2.5bn lower than the previous target. Borrowing is also forecasted to fall in 2012 to £122bn, then £101bn in 2012/13, £70bn in 2013/14, £46bn in 2014/15 and £29bn in 2015/16.
In other budget headlines, the chancellor announced an increase in the personal tax allowance of a further £630 to £8,015. The chancellor also suggested that the 50% top rate tax should be seen as a temporary measure and that the treasury would review how much the 50% rate raises. For businesses the chancellor announced that corporation tax would be cut by 2% in April but that the bank levy would be adjusted so that banks would not benefit from the reduction in corporation tax. Fuel duty is also to be cut by 1p per litre from 18:00 today whilst there are no changes to alcohol duty and tobacco duty will increase at 2% above inflation.
In Europe, the Portuguese government will this afternoon put its austerity measures to a parliamentary vote. The largest opposition party have already announced that they will present a draft resolution rejecting the austerity measures. Should the government loose the vote, it is likely the Prime Minister will resign triggering the dissolution of parliament and possibly international financial rescue and an EU bailout. The Euro is already under some downward pressure against the US Dollar and currently trades at 1.41.
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