Britain could lift rates in spring 2015: policymaker

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's record-low interest rates could start rising in spring 2015, a Bank of England policymaker told Sky News on Thursday.

Martin Weale, a member of the central bank's nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee, indicated rates could begin rising from the current level of 0.50 per cent before a general election due in May 2015.

"I think it is very helpful if we try and explain that the most likely path for interest rates is that the first rise will come perhaps in the spring of next year," Weale told Sky News.

"And then the path is likely to be relatively gradual." He added: "During an election campaign it would obviously be difficult (to change rates) but the election campaign will last for three weeks." The comments mark the BoE's most explicit hint yet of when borrowing costs could start to rise.

The bank's key rate has stood at 0.50 per cent since March 2009, when it also launched a quantative easing stimulus to boost growth.

However, the BoE now faces pressure from markets to begin raising its main interest rate as Britain's economic recovery picks up speed.

Governor Mark Carney took the helm at the BoE last August and launched a forward guidance policy, under which he said borrowing costs would not be lifted until the unemployment rate falls to at least 7.0 per cent.

Under the amended guidance set out last week, the BoE will seek to absorb all the spare capacity in the economy as it looks to keep inflation close to a government-set target of 2.0 per cent, before moving to hike its key lending rate.

Official data showed Wednesday that Britain's unemployment rate rose in the quarter to December to stand at 7.2 per cent, up from 7.1 per cent in the quarter to November.

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