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Bank of England's Ramsden sees case to raise rates sooner than he thought

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02/26/2018 | 10:28am CEST
FILE PHOTO: Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden speaks at the 'Future Forum 2017' event in St George's Hall, Liverpool

LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England might need to raise British interest rates somewhat sooner than Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden had expected if wage growth picks up early this year, according to a newspaper interview released on Saturday.

Ramsden was one of two policymakers who opposed the BoE's decision in November to raise interest rates for the first time in a decade, but appears to have shifted his stance somewhat in comments published by the Sunday Times newspaper.

Earlier this month the central bank said interest rates might need to rise somewhat sooner and by somewhat more over the next three years than policymakers had expected in November, due to a strong global economy and signs wages are rising faster.

"We all will keep a close eye on what happens through the early part of this year to see if that (BoE) forecast of wage growth picking up to 3 percent is realised," Ramsden was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times.

"But certainly relative to where I was, I see the case for rates rising somewhat sooner rather than somewhat later."

RATE RISES EXPECTED

Economists polled by Reuters expect the BoE to raise interest rates to 0.75 percent from 0.5 percent by May, and financial markets price in a high chance of a further rate rise to 1 percent before the end of 2018.

The BoE's chief economist, Andy Haldane, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he thought interest rates might need to rise slightly faster even than the central bank had expected when it set out fresh economic forecasts early in the month.

However, Governor Mark Carney said at the same event that future monetary policy decisions would depend heavily on how businesses and consumers react to ongoing talks on the terms of Britain's departure from the European Union in March 2019.

Britain's economy underperformed other major advanced economies last year, due to a hit to consumer demand from higher inflation triggered by the pound's fall after the Brexit vote, as well as comparatively weak business investment.

The unemployment rate also rose slightly in the final quarter of 2017, though at 4.4 percent it remains near a 42-year low.

Ramsden told the Confederation of British Industry on Friday that the economy could not grow faster than 1.5 percent a year without starting to add to inflation pressures.

(Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Alexander Smith)

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