Inflation not falling as fast as hoped - Paul Tucker
LONDON (Reuters) - Inflation is uncomfortably high and will probably not fall as fast as the Bank of England has forecast, deputy governor Paul Tucker said on Wednesday, giving a strong hint that another cash boost for the economy may be off the table.
While the recovery of the economy from a contraction at the end of last year was broadly on track as predicted in the central bank's February forecasts, news on inflation had been "bad", Tucker said in a speech at a conference in Liverpool.
"Though it (inflation) has fallen significantly over the past six months, from over 5 percent to 3.5 percent on yesterday's reading, it remains uncomfortably above target," Tucker said according to the text of his speech.
"The MPC will guide inflation back to target in the medium term, but in the near term there is considerable uncertainty about the path that it will follow," he said.
Inflation was likely to stay a little higher than projected in the February Inflation Report in the short-term and might remain above 3 percent throughout the second quarter of this year and possibly into the second half of the year, he said.
In its February Inflation Report projections, the Bank of England had predicted that inflation would fall below its 2-percent target towards the end of this year.
But food and oil prices prodded inflation up to 3.5 percent in March, halting a five-month decline from a peak of 5.2 percent in September 2011.
Fellow policymakers Spencer Dale and Martin Weale have also voiced concerns over the inflation outlook and indicated their reluctance to back another round of asset-buying by the bank when its current 325 billion pound quantitative-easing programme is completed in May.
Minutes from the central bank's April meeting will be released at 0830 GMT and shed light on the discussions of the nine Monetary Policy Committee members.
With the government's hands tied by its pledge to erase a huge budget deficit, the onus to support the fragile economic recovery remains firmly on the central bank.
"Monetary policy will underpin the recovery so long as that remains consistent with anchoring inflation expectations in line with achieving the 2 percent target over the medium run," Tucker said. "We shall not let that slip."
Britain's economy shrank at the end of last year and while business surveys indicated a firmer start to 2012, a drop in manufacturing and weak construction output has raised fears that the economy has fallen back into recession.
But Tucker highlighted that the BoE would be looking at the underlying trend as the official headline growth numbers for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) may not provide a clear view of the economy.
"Big picture, that (the BoE forecast) view on the growth outlook still looks broadly on track, but it is not always going to seem like that over the next few weeks and months as the ONS data for the first half of the year are published," he said.
"Overall, surveys point to growth in underlying activity over the first half of 2012 - not stellar growth, indeed modest growth, but growth nonetheless," he said.
The official numbers showed extremely weak construction output at the turn of the year, making it likely that growth in the first quarter could be close to flat.
However, mismeasurement in the relatively new monthly statistical series could not be ruled out, Tucker said.
(Reporting by Sven Egenter; editing by Patrick Graham)
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