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The Latest: UK economy would be boosted by clarity on Brexit

February 7, 2019
Alba, a white German Shepherd dog, wearing a European flag stands with supporters of Britain remaining in the European Union as they protest opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Prime Minister Theresa May was gathering pro-Brexit and pro-EU Conservative lawmakers into an "alternative arrangements working group" seeking to break Britain's Brexit deadlock. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the Bank of England’s monetary policy decision and news conference (all times local):

1:05 p.m.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says an easing in Brexit uncertainty could give the British economy a big boost.

At a news conference after the bank kept its main interest rate on hold at 0.75 percent, Carney said the British economy could grow by around 0.5 percentage point more over the coming three years if the uncertainties are resolved sooner than anticipated in its latest economic projections.

In its quarterly economic forecasts, which are based on the assumption that Britain shifts smoothly to a new trade relationship with the EU, the bank cut its U.K. growth prediction this year to 1.2 percent, which would be a decade-low rate.

Even in that scenario of a smooth adjustment, the Bank of England thinks there’s a 25 percent chance the U.K. economy could slip into recession this year.

Carney said “there’s upside if there’s clarity on the deal sooner.”

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12:45 p.m.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is warning that the “fog of Brexit” is creating “a series of tensions” in the British economy.

In a news conference after the bank kept its main interest rate unchanged at 0.75 percent, Carney said it is likely that uncertainties “remain elevated for a while and that financial conditions stay tighter for longer.”

Although many companies have stepped up preparations for the possibility that Britain might crash out of the European Union on March 29 without a deal, Carney said the economy as a whole “is still not yet prepared for no deal, no transition exit.”

He said half the businesses surveyed by the Bank of England are “not ready for such a possibility” and that “on balance respondents expect U.K. output, employment and investment to contract substantially if it were to occur.”

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12:40 p.m.

The pound has dropped after the Bank of England slashed its forecasts for the British economy amid growing uncertainties over Britain’s exit from the European Union and weaker global growth.

While keeping its main interest rate at 0.75 percent, the Bank of England said Thursday that the U.K. economy is set to grow by just 1.2 percent this year instead of 1.7 percent as predicted just three months ago.

In its quarterly economic projections published alongside the rate decision, the bank predicted only one more quarter-point interest rate increase over the coming three years, to be carried out later this year. That’s a slower pace than previously thought.

Though some analysts think the bank is erring on the side of caution given the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, the pound fell to a 3-week low below $1.29.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com, says it increasingly “seems that rates will remain anchored for the rest of the year.”

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12:10 p.m.

The Bank of England has slashed its forecasts for the British economy amid growing uncertainties over Britain’s exit from the European Union and weaker global growth.

While keeping its main interest rate at 0.75 percent, the Bank said the U.K. economy is set to grow by just 1.2 percent this year, far below the 1.7 percent predicted just three months ago.

If the economy were to in fact grow by that weaker rate, it would be the country’s worst performance since the 4.2 percent contraction in 2009 following the global financial crisis.

Bank of England rate-setters said the “outlook depended significantly on the nature of the EU withdrawal.”

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but there’s no clarity as to how it will do so.

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