Carney sees interest rate rise in 'relatively near term'

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Media captionGovernor of the Bank of England Mark Carney hints interest rates may rise on Radio 4’s Today

Interest rates will rise in the “relatively near term” the Governor of the Bank of England has told the BBC.

In the clearest indication yet that there could be a rate rise as early as November, Mark Carney suggested that it was time for the bank to “ease its foot off the accelerator”.

The next opportunity for a change in interest rates is the Bank’s monetary policy committee meeting on 2 November.

The governor also warned against “reckless” household borrowing.

He said that while overall lending to UK consumers had come down markedly since the financial crisis, there was a danger from rapid “frothy” growth in some areas of household borrowing.

“What we’re worried about is a pocket of risk – a risk in consumer debt, credit card debt, debt for cars, personal loans,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

He said banks had “not been as disciplined as they should be” in their underwriting standards and pricing of this debt.

‘Limited and gradual’

Pressed on when the Bank was likely to raise interest rates, a move that would make borrowing more expensive, Mr Carney confirmed the latest analysis from the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

“If the economy continues on the track that it’s been on, and all indications are that it is, in the relatively near term we can expect that interest rates will increase,” he said.

Speculation has been growing that the Bank could raise interest rates at its next meeting. The last time rates were raised was July 2007 before the financial crisis. Since then interest rates have been kept low in order to boost the economy by keeping cost of borrowing down.

Recent low unemployment figures and stronger inflation have made a rise in rates more likely.

“We’re talking about just easing the foot off the accelerator to keep with the speed limit of the economy and so interest rate increases when they come – when and if they come – will be to a limited extent and gradual,” Mr Carney said.

However new figures from the Office for National Statistics for the three months to June showed the economy growing at just 1.5% a year, a slower pace than previously estimated.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist, at IHS Markit said it would be unprecedented for the Bank of England to tighten interest rate policy given “such anaemic growth”.

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Despite Mr Carney’s comments the pound has slipped very slightly against the dollar and the euro.

The Bank Governor also responded to comments from former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and former prime minister Gordon Brown that there should be changes to the way the Bank of England cooperates with the Treasury to ensure financial stability.

Mr Carney rejected suggestions that reform was needed, arguing the system was “incredibly well designed” with the Bank’s current role of identifying and highlighting risks to the economy, but with the big decisions resting with the government.

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