The Bank of England has downgraded its growth forecast, predicting the most sluggish year in the UK economy since 2009.

It expects GDP growth of 1.2% in 2019 - down from the forecast of 1.7% made in November 2018 - citing the impact of Brexit uncertainty and a slowing global economy.

However, it noted that these uncertainties could lead to short-term volatility in economic data, which "may therefore provide less of a signal about the medium-term outlook".

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to keep interest rates the same, at 0.75%.

Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said:

"Businesses will find comfort in the Bank's decision to bide its time before embarking on rate hikes.

"Right now, many firms have little appetite to invest in the midst of uncertainty while there are also signs that consumer confidence is waning, so it's important that interest rates remain low."

Meanwhile, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales reported weaker business confidence, from -12.3 in Q4 2018 down to -16.4 in Q1 2019.

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