The Bank of England's interest rate decision may be about to get interesting again, after years of predictability.
With fears Greece could crash out of the euro zone on the back burner for now, interest rate rises are becoming the next big bet for traders.
The central bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which makes interest rate decisions and has kept its base rate at 0.5 percent for more than six years, may start showing signs of a more pro-rises stance at next Thursday's meeting. Many economists are now expecting a 7-2 split in the committee, rather than the unanimous 9-0 in favor of maintaining rates at 0.5 percent last time around.
Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty, widely seen as the committee's two most hawkish members, are viewed as the two most likely to want to raise rates. There are a couple of other members who are outside bets to take the leap.
David Miles, for whom the August meeting will be his last on the MPC, might also surprise with a vote to raise rates, according to Samuel Tombs, senior U.K. economist at Capital Economics. He thinks the bank will probably keep rates on hold until the second quarter of 2016. Kristin Forbes, the U.S. economist who is the newest member of the committee, could also be an outlier who votes in favour of a rate hike, David Tinsley, U.K. and European economist at UBS, told CNBC. "A third member voting to raise rates would be big news and certainly surprise the market," he pointed out.
The minutes, and the press conference following the meeting, are also likely to be closely watched for any signal of future voting intentions. While the U.K. has outpaced many other European countries in its recovery from the financial crisis, there are still concerns about the kind of recovery being built in the country. Productivity – the value of the input produced by workers - still appears to be a big concern for the MPC. Its persistently low levels in the U.K. suggest that, while unemployment figures remain positive, the kind of jobs being created may not be as good for the economy.
"Most members of the MPC will still want to see how the labor market develops before moving on rates," Tinsley said. Inflation also remains persistently far below the MPC's 2 percent target, as energy costs stay low. There will be a few important pieces of data which could affect the decision between now and then. This week, preliminary gross domestic product figures are due on Tuesday, and are expected to show that the economy grew by 0.6-0.7 percent in the second quarter.
"There's still a strong case for waiting and seeing how the recovery develops," Tombs argued. "There is plenty of upside to the outlook for productivity." If there are more hawks than thought among the MPC, expectations of a rise in November or February could give U.K. banks a boost.
As Nomura's European banks analysts wrote in a research note Friday, "banks are the natural beneficiaries given the asymmetric relationship between the repricing of assets and liabilities".
Standard Chartered, RBS and HSBC would be the biggest winners from a rate rise among the U.K. banks, they argued.
By CNBC's Catherine Boyle