Predicting the future of interest rates

Interest rates in the UK have been at 0.5% since mid-2009, when they were reduced with the objective of stimulating the economy, through encouraging consumption and investment. Over the past 12 months, economic recovery has begun and with the housing market rising by 8.4% over the past year, what can we expect from interest rates?

Interest rates are a powerful tool of monetary policy and affect many of the components of aggregate demand. As such, they are also a key tool in achieving low and stable inflation rates and keeping unemployment low. Unemployment has been falling, as the economic recovery has taken hold, but is still above the 7% level that the Bank of England has said is needed before rates are increased. However, with the improvements in the housing market, some are now expecting interest rates to go up sooner than previously thought. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)

28 economists were questioned about the future of interest rates in the UK and 93% of those asked were of the opinion that interest rates will still be at 0.5% by the end of 2014. Furthermore, more than 50% think that interest rates will not begin to go up until the second half of 2015 and 15% suggest that they will not increase until 2016.

What happens to interest rates will depend on many things, including changes in productivity, unemployment trends, wage growth and inflation. It is also likely to depend on economic changes in countries around the world. The following articles consider the future of interest rates.

UK interest rates to stay at 0.5% in 2014 – economists BBC News (3/1/14)
It is high time we raised interest rates and returned to normality The Telegraph, Jeremy Warner (2/1/14)
BoE will ‘move goalposts’ on interest rates Financial Times, Chris Giles and Claire Jones (1/1/14)
Interest rate rise with no wage increase ‘will push heavily-indebted to edge’ The Guardian, Heather Stewart (2/12/14)
BoE may lower jobless rate guidance, but not this month – Reuters poll Reuters, Suzanne Plunkett (3/1/14)


  1. Explain how each component of aggregate demand will be affected by changes in interest rates.
  2. How do interest rates affect unemployment?
  3. Interest rates are used to keep inflation on target. Explain how this is done.
  4. What might be the effect on the macroeconomic objectives if interest rates are increased?
  5. What are the arguments (a) for increasing Bank rate and (b) for maintaining it at the current 0.5% level?