Bank of England holds interest rates and quantitative easing

Bank Of England Building

The Bank of England has rejected calls for a rise in interest rates despite a strong run of surveys showing the economy is recovering at its fastest pace since 2010.

In a widely expected decision, the central bank's interest rate setters kept the base rate at 0.5% and the level of its monetary stimulus to the economy, known as quantitative easing, at £375bn.

Some analysts have called for a rise in interest rates in response to the improving economic picture and a recent jump in housing market activity.

However, the bank's monetary policy committee has agreed to maintain its current policy stance until the unemployment rate falls to 7%. It expects to reach this milestone in 2016 after 750,000 jobs have been created.

Governor Mark Carney believes the economy remains weak and much of the current 2.7% inflation rate can be blamed on one-off shocks.

The bank is known to be extremely concerned at the level of business investment, which has continued to fall this year despite the pace of recovery picking up since the spring and many commentators describing it as a well-advanced and sustainable expansion of economic activity. Without a return to healthy rates of business investment, senior Bank staff fear the economy will be forced to rely on consumer spending to maintain growth.

Philip Shaw, UK economist at Investec, said the positive momentum of the economy made more QE unlikely.

"The key question surrounds the possible timing of the first interest rate hike. This is some way off and the likelihood is that the UK faces a long period of steady policy. Nonetheless markets and ourselves are sceptical that this move will occur as far in the future as the second half of 2016, as the Bank of England's guidance implies," he said, adding that the debt markets expect a rise in early 2015.

Peter Dixon, UK economist at Commerzbank, said: "As far as the immediate future is concerned, the BoE is expected to remain on the sidelines.

"Although the economy can be expected to lose momentum relative to recent trends, we look for a self-sustaining recovery with GDP growth in the region of 2% next year. This is not an environment in which additional policy activism is required, implying no more QE as well as no rate moves."

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The already limited likelihood of any further QE appears to have waned further as the good news on the UK economy has been largely sustained – notwithstanding a few blips such as the surprise marked drop in industrial production in August. Meanwhile, any change in interest rates is clearly a long way off whether or not unemployment ends up falling more rapidly than the Bank of England currently expects."

Powered by article was written by Phillip Inman, economics correspondent, for on Thursday 10th October 2013 13.23 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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