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ImageLondon’s Oxford Street, a central shopping area, on Wednesday. Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Britain’s central bank surprised markets on Thursday by increasing its main interest rate for the first time in three-and-a-half years to combat a surge in inflation, despite the economic uncertainty posed by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Policymakers voted to raise the bank’s interest rate by 15 basis points to 0.25 percent. The rate had been at 0.1 percent since March 2020, when the onset of the pandemic sent financial markets careening and the government first introduced lockdown measures.

The Bank of England was the first major central bank to raise interest rates as inflation climbed to the highest level in a decade and the bank said it would not peak until April. Eight of the nine policymakers voted for a rate increase, compared with just two in November. After the announcement the pound jumped against the U.S….

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