British households squeezed again

LONDON • British households are feeling the tightest squeeze on their finances in three years and the Bank of England's (BOE) signal that it is getting close to raising interest rates is likely to make things worse, a survey showed yesterday.

IHS Markit said its monthly Household Finance Index fell to 42.8 this month from 43.4 last month, though above a three-year low of 41.6 seen in July.

Looking at the third quarter as a whole, the index's average reading is its lowest since 2014.

British households have been pinched by fast-rising inflation since last year's Brexit vote and weak rises in wages.

Yesterday's survey showed the amount of cash available to spend continued to fall at one of the steepest rates seen over the past three years.

"With the Bank of England sounding increasingly eager to start hiking interest rates, the prospect of higher borrowing costs and increased mortgage payments is likely to hit households further," Mr Tim Moore, a director at IHS Markit, said.

Last week, the BOE said it expected to raise interest rates in the coming months if inflation pressure continued to build, surprising many investors.

The IHS Markit survey showed households were also likely to be taken by surprise by the BOE's change of tone.

Only 29 per cent of respondents expected a rate rise over the next six months, and just 12 per cent before the end of the year, IHS Markit said.

The survey of 1,500 people was conducted between Sept 6 and 11, before last Thursday's announcement by the BOE.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'British households squeezed again'. Print Edition | Subscribe