The pound has fallen below US$1.29 for the first time in almost a year on continuing worries Britain will leave the EU without a trade deal. Sterling also hit a nine-month low against the euro, and was down against the yen and Swiss franc.
The UK economy expanded at a slightly faster pace in the fourth quarter on services and manufacturing output, but the full-year growth was the weakest in five years, preliminary data from the Office for National Statistics showed. GDP grew 0.5% sequentially in the fourth quarter, while the rate was forecast to remain unchanged at 0.4%.
Economists have downgraded Britain’s growth prospects in the wake of political uncertainty following the general election and as a prolonged Brexit drag on business investment looms. New forecasts by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) show that the UK economy will grow by just 1.3% in 2017, a substantial downward revision from an earlier forecast of 1.7%.
The Bank of England opted this week to keep its main interest rate at a record-low level of 0.50% against a backdrop of solid British economic growth. The central bank's nine-member monetary policy committee decided also to maintain the level of cash stimulus in the economy at £375 billion, it said in a statement.
Six members of the Bank of England’s nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee, including Governor Mervyn King, continued to oppose the minority campaign for an immediate rise in benchmark UK interest rates at the MPC’s meeting two weeks ago, minutes revealed Wednesday.