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Stage set for a snappy Queen's speech and unchanged interest rates on Thursday

No company announcements on Thursday, meaning interest rates and the Queen's speech will take centre stage

United Utilities Group PLC -

A quiet day on the company news front, perhaps, but Thursday is set to be packed with political and economic action.

Relieved of any company news, market watchers are likely instead to turn their heads to the Queen’s speech, which has been written by Boris Johnson's new government to mark the start of the parliamentary year and set out the Conservative party's agenda.

The most pressing item on the list will no doubt be Johnson’s Brexit bill, as the prime minister intends to deliver a second reading of the withdrawal agreement bill before Christmas recess next week in order to leave the EU by the current 31 January deadline.

In fact, time matters so much this time around that the ceremony will be clipped to speed it up, with none of the usual horse-drawn carriages and ceremonial robes.

Interest in rates decision

Elsewhere, with retail sector data served as a starter in the morning, the main focus will be interest rates as the Bank of England reveals its latest monetary policy decision.

Last month, the BoE’s monetary policy committee came to a surprising split decision in its interest rate vote, with external members Michael Saunders and Jonathan Haskel voting for a cut.

The general election outcome will bring new lines of thinking in what is the last MPC meeting of the year and the penultimate gathering under governor Mark Carney, but it does not seem likely to bring any immediate change of heart.

With the base rate currently at 0.75%, where it has been since August last year, it is widely expected to remain unchanged as the decade comes to a close.

The odds strongly favour the MPC keeping rates unchanged on Thursday, but “there will be much interest in the voting margin and the tone of the minutes of the meeting”, said economist Howard Archer of the EY Item Club, wondering if any of the other seven members will vote for a cut and whether the minutes come across as more dovish.

“For now, we just about maintain the view that the BoE is most likely to keep interest rates at 0.75% through 2020,” Archer said.

“However, it is a close call and there is clearly a very real possibility that there could be a 25 basis point interest rate cut to 0.50% in 2020.”

It's worth noting, as economists at RBC Capital Markets did, that last month’s 7-2 split vote “revealed a degree of concern within the MPC” on the outlook for UK growth, in particular the downside risks to growth overseas.

But as the coming meeting comes just a week after a general election and is accompanied by neither a press conference nor a refreshed set of forecasts, “it is very difficult to see the MPC making any change to policy on this occasion”, RBC concluded.

Significant announcements expected for Thursday December 19:

AGMs: Haydale Graphene Industries PLC (LON:HAYD), SkinBioTherapeutics PLC (LON:SBTX)

FTSE 100 ex-dividendsBurberry Group PLC (LON:BRBY), United Utilities Group PLC (LON:UU.)

Economic announcementsBank of England policy decision, UK retail sales, US jobless claims

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