Return to growth blunts chances of more BoE bond buys

LONDON Thu May 2, 2013 12:22pm BST

City workers walk near St Paul's Cathedral in London October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

City workers walk near St Paul's Cathedral in London October 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's return to economic growth has reduced the likelihood the Bank of England will print more money this year to 55 percent from 60 percent, according to a Reuters poll that forecast no policy move next week.

A majority of economists surveyed this week also said the Bank's reworked Funding for Lending scheme (FLS), designed to get credit flowing into small and medium-sized companies, will be effective.

Britain's economy sidestepped a third recession in five years by growing a modest 0.3 percent in January-March.

But few expect growth will increase from there much over the next year, leaving it slightly more likely than not the Bank will ease policy further by extending its quantitative easing (QE) bond buys.

Only three out of 63 economists thought that will happen next week, and the poll suggested a raft of new measures might emerge after July with the arrival of Mark Carney as governor.

"The Q1 GDP numbers may have tilted the balance of probabilities further against an expansion of QE next week, particularly in view of the decision to extend the FLS, which ticks the 'active monetary measures' box," said Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank.

The BoE last week extended its FLS by an extra year, with an additional focus on helping smaller businesses.

Thirty-four out of 55 economists said the scheme will be effective, with the rest describing it as having no impact, ineffective or highly so. No-one felt it will be very effective.

"Targeting lending at (small and medium-sized businesses) is particularly important as this sector, which accounts for three-quarters of UK businesses, has struggled to access credit since the 2008 recession," said Melanie Bowler at Moody's Analytics.

Almost twice as many economists said lack of demand was the main reason for poor growth of credit, rather than a scarcity of supply, although many said it was down to a combination.

Interest rates look almost certain to remain at their record low 0.5 percent deep into next year, and the European Central Bank is expected to cut its own main interest rate to that level on Thursday.

CARNEY QUESTION

Canada's central bank chief Mark Carney replaces Mervyn King as BoE governor on July 1, and with his arrival come expectations of further action.

From now until the end of the year, 27 economists said the Bank would announce more measures to increase lending to businesses, while 15 said it would aim to extend credit to households before year-end.

Other answers included forward interest rate guidance, in the same vein as the U.S. Federal Reserve, and new incentives for banks to write down their bad assets and recapitalise.

"Nothing positive will happen in the UK economy until weaknesses in the financial structure are addressed," said Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Monument Securities.

Asked what should be the main focus for the Monetary Policy Committee, more respondents said boosting growth by encouraging lending to businesses rather than controlling inflation.

(Polling by Sarmista Sen and Ramya Muthukumaran; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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