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Interest rates: Higher UK inflation will trigger multiple hikes, warns BoE economist

The Bank of England raised interest rates to a 13-year high of 1.25% on Thursday. Photo: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty
The Bank of England raised interest rates to a 13-year high of 1.25% on Thursday. Photo: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty

The Bank of England's (BoE) chief economist has given some guidance on what could trigger bigger interest rates rises in the coming months if the current issues plaguing the economy do not resolve.

Huw Pill warned the central bank will carry out more aggressive rate hikes if surging inflation shows signs of becoming a permanent feature of the economy.

Pill, who is one of the officials of the nine member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), said rate-setters stood ready to ramp up the pace of tightening if data indicated that wage growth was spiralling and firms were raising their costs to protect margins.

Speaking to Bloomberg on Friday, he said: "If we do see greater evidence that the current high level of inflation is becoming embedded in pricing behaviour by firms, in wage setting behaviour by firms and workers, then that will be the trigger for this more aggressive action."

He added: "The statement that we put out collectively is one that I think had a certain level of flexibility because it had to encompass those different views.

"The key things to focus on understanding are many domestic indicators on how firms are setting prices as they try and re-establish margins after some of the increases in costs they face."

UK inflation jumped to a 40-year high of 9% in the year to April as food and energy prices surged, and the country faces a major cost of living crisis.

It is on course to peak over 11% in October, according to the Bank’s revised forecasts published on Thursday.

Read more: Bank of England raises UK interest rates to 13-year high of 1.25%

It comes after the Bank raised interest rates by 25 basis points to 1.25%, defying pressure to act more quickly after the Federal Reserve announced a historic 0.75% rate hike.

However, there was a hawkish tilt in language on Thursday, with the MPC vowing to act more "forcefully" if necessary. The push higher will come if inflation, which is mainly being driven by energy prices, gets worse.

"The MPC will take the actions necessary to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably in the medium term, in line with its remit," the Bank said. "The scale, pace and timing of any further increases in Bank Rate will reflect the Committee’s assessment of the economic outlook and inflationary pressures."

"The Committee will be particularly alert to indications of more persistent inflationary pressures, and will if necessary act forcefully in response."

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?