Bank of England pauses QE stimulus policy

The Bank of England decided Thursday against injecting more new quantitative easing (QE) stimulus into the economy and voted to hold interest rates at a record low, after Britain escaped from recession.

The central bank said in a statement that its nine-member monetary policy committee (MPC) voted to hold rates at 0.50 percent and leave its QE cash stimulus at £375 billion ($604 billion, 467 billion euros).

The announcement means that the radical QE policy is effectively on pause after the most recent £50-billion tranche of new money was pumped out.

Minutes of the latest regular monthly meeting, to be published on November 21, will provide the reasoning behind Thursday's decisions.

"It was probably close but the decision by the MPC to hold fire on announcing further QE this month was expected," said KPMG chief economist Andrew Smith.

The European Central Bank meanwhile voted to keep eurozone borrowing costs at a record low 0.75 percent, as it continued to assess the impact of its latest measures to fight the eurozone debt crisis.

The Bank of England had been forecast to maintain its monetary policy stance after recent data showed the economy bounced back from a double-dip recession in the third quarter of 2012, helped by the London Olympics.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rallied by 1.0 percent in the third quarter, or three months to September, after output had contracted for the previous three quarters, recent data showed.

But growth turned positive on one-off factors, including the London 2012 Olympic Games and rebounding activity after an extra public holiday for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in the second quarter.

"We suspect that this will prove to be a pause in the QE programme, rather than its end," cautioned Citi economist Saunders on Thursday.

"The Q3 surge in GDP largely reflected the rebound from the Queen's Jubilee plus side-effects of the Olympics."

The BoE had cut its key lending rate to the current record low level in March 2009, when it also launched its radical QE policy to pump up the British economy with hundreds of billions of pounds.

The bank raised QE by £50 billion to £375 billion in July in a fresh attempt to stimulate lending by retail banks and help prevent economic contagion from the debt crisis in the neighbouring eurozone.

Until recently, analysts had expected the Bank of England to announce an increase to its QE stimulus at the November meeting but changed tack after data showed Britain had escaped its longest double-dip recession since the 1950s.

Despite Britain's emergence from recession, a weak run of economic data has sparked concern over the fragile nature of the recovery.

Economists expressed fears over the underlying health of the economy after weak purchasing managers surveys for Britain's construction, manufacturing and services sectors in October.

"Despite last month's strong GDP figure, the UK still has problems within the manufacturing and service industries and remains vulnerable to another downturn in the eurozone," said Currencies Direct analyst Alistair Cotton.

"More QE is essential at some point over the coming months, else the BoE risk sending the UK economy into an unheralded triple-dip recession."

Under QE, the Bank of England creates cash that is used to purchase assets such as government and corporate bonds with the aim of boosting economic activity.

The BoE's main task is to use monetary policy as a tool to keep annual inflation close to a target of 2.0 percent.

British 12-month inflation slowed close to a three-year low at 2.2 percent in September, but many analysts warn that recent domestic energy price hikes would reverse the decline.

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