The pound has hit heights against the dollar not seen since the Brexit vote result was announced, after a Bank of England policymaker added his voice to support for an interest rate rise.
Gertjan Vlieghe said he supported the view, expressed by a majority of the nine-member monetary policy committee (MPC) at Thursday’s meeting, that rates could rise in the “coming months” to help keep a lid on inflation should it continue to grow as expected.
In a speech to a conference in London, the economist said: “There remains a risk that, at some stage, the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process has a larger impact on the economy than we have seen so far.
“If that happens, monetary policy would respond appropriately.
“But for now, it seems the net effect of the many underlying forces acting on the UK economy is that slack iscontinually being eroded and wage pressure is gently building.
Video: Carney: rate rise possibility ‘increased’
“If these data trends of reducing slack, rising pay pressure, strengthening household spending and robust global growth continue, the appropriate time for a rise in Bank Rate might be as early as in the coming months.”
It was revealed earlier this week that the annual rate of inflation had hit 2.9% in August – with real wage growth in decline as the latest average increases were static at 2.1%.
:: Jobless rate at 42-year low but pay stalls
Much of the increase in inflation – and the wage growth apathy – can be explained by uncertainty linked to the Brexit vote.
In sterling’s case, the pound slumped against a basket of international currencies following the EU referendum result.
Video: Cost of fashion pushes inflation to 2.9%
The consequence of that has been a steep rise in import costs – with those increases being passed on accounting for the leap in consumer prices.
Sterling has since recovered some poise – soaring to a high above $1.36 at one stage on Friday, building on gains made after Thursday’s MPC meeting.
It had crashed from $1.50 to $1.32 immediately after the Brexit result was known in June 2016 – before tumbling further to lows below $1.20.
On Friday, it was also higher versus the euro at just over 88p.
Sterling’s strengthening was reflected on the FTSE 100 as big multi-national earners bled market value. The index was down 1% for a second consecutive day.
Market participants saw the currency shift as a realisation that a rate hike was likely, given that inflation is tipped to hit 3% before next year.
Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: “This does not mean the start of a tightening cycle as we understand them necessarily, but at least a ‘correction’ to the Bank’s cut last August.
“Indeed with sterling now back to more sensible levels it will no doubt raise debate again about whether the Bank should have cut rates given that the collapse in sterling is what’s driving inflation.”