LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England opted on Thursday not to pump more cash into the fragile economy, as policymakers pin their hopes on the bank’s new lending scheme and some worry about inflation.
The decision, which matched expectations, is likely to have been close, with the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee having to weigh Britain’s surprisingly strong exit from recession in the third quarter against signs of renewed weakness since then.
And more money-printing is still on the cards, with analysts polled by Reuters forecasting another 50 billion pound dose in the first quarter of 2013 to support the nascent recovery.
“We are pretty sure that the economy will need more stimulus in the months ahead,” said Vicky Redwood at Capital Economics.
“And we do not think that the committee is out of firepower yet. In any case, conceding that there is nothing more it can do would hardly help confidence.”
Several MPC members have voiced doubts about the continued effectiveness of its asset-buying programme in boosting the economy.
Redwood said that more gilt purchases were still likely in the near term, but afterwards “the MPC will have to venture into even more unconventional territory”, for example buying private-sector assets.
After a two-day meeting, the MPC voted not to buy more British government bonds, having already bought 375 billion pounds’ worth since the 2008-09 economic slump. It also kept its main interest rate at the record-low 0.5 percent, as predicted.
Sterling hit a five-week high against the euro after the BoE announcement, while gilts fell.
Attention will now turn to the quarterly inflation and growth forecast updates in the BoE’s Inflation Report, which Governor Mervyn King will present on November 14.
Britain has not fully recovered the output lost in the wake of the financial crisis, while the euro zone’s debt problems, government tax hikes and spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit and banks’ reluctance to lend are all weighing on the economy.
Just three weeks ago, economists saw a 60 percent chance of another round of quantitative easing being unveiled this week.
But when they were asked the same question last week, in the wake of data showing British GDP growth of 1 percent between July and September, that probability fell to 40 percent.
Last month, Martin Weale said another round of quantitative easing might not be compatible with the bank’s inflation target, while BoE chief economist Spencer Dale noted that inflation was sticky.
Inflation eased to 2.2 percent in September, holding above the 2 percent target even before hefty price rises by four of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers kicked in.
Central bankers hope their new Funding for Lending Scheme will get credit flowing to households and businesses, but it may take another few months for its effects to show through.
The BoE will release the minutes of the latest meeting on November 21.
Editing by Hugh Lawson