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Rates will remain main policy tool for BoE, Pill says

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A person walks past the Bank of England in the City of London financial district in London

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) - Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill said on Friday that interest rates would remain the central bank's main monetary policy tool as it prepares to start selling bonds, reversing part of its economic stimulus push.

Pill said in a speech to Germany's Walter Eucken Institut that selling these assets, known as quantitative tightening (QT), would help to tighten monetary policy.

"But as long as we undertake any gilt sales programme in a gradual, predictable and well-communicated manner in a reasonably benign market environment, we can still use Bank Rate as the marginal instrument to achieve the inflation target over the medium term," he said.

The use of rates would depend on how QT influenced asset prices and the wider economic situation, Pill said.

The BoE began raising borrowing costs in December last year, increasing Bank Rate to 1.25% from a record low of 0.1% as inflation accelerated to a 40-year high of 9.1% in May.

The BoE is also working on a plan for selling assets from its stockpile of debt, mostly British government bonds, that reached almost 900 billion pounds ($1.11 trillion) in size before beginning to shrink as the bonds reached maturity.

The central bank's Monetary Policy Committee is due to consider the plan in August after which it could decide to start the asset sales.

Pill also said on Friday that the high level of inflation in Britain stemmed largely from external shocks, but there was a risk that higher headline inflation could lead to second-round effects in prices, wages and costs.

He said none of his comments represented a new assessment of the outlook for monetary policy and reiterated that the BoE was ready to "if necessary act forcefully".

Pill was part of the six-strong MPC majority which voted for a quarter-point increase in Bank Rate last week. Three other MPC members voted for a bigger, half-point increase.

($1 = 0.8145 pounds)

(This story refiles to correct the typo in the headline)

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by David Milliken)

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