The Bank of England will probably maintain emergency stimulus for the economy next week as policy makers assess whether a 13-month bout of above-target inflation will become entrenched in the economy.
The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, led by Governor Mervyn King, will leave the benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent, according to all 62 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. They’ll also keep their bond purchase plan at 200 billion pounds ($322 billion), said all 38 economists in a separate poll.
Inflation jumped to an eight-month high of 3.7 percent in December, and surveys of services and manufacturing indicated the recovery restarted in January after the economy contracted in the fourth quarter. The panel may prefer to keep policy loose as the government steps up its fiscal squeeze to reduce the budget deficit, and the euro area, Britain’s biggest export market, battles to contain a debt crisis.
“The data have been encouraging, but it’s still early days,” said Brian Hilliard, an economist at Societe Generale in London and a former central bank official. “They’ll also be nervous on tightening policy while the eurozone seems fragile.” Still, “They can’t wait forever.”
The bank, which targets a 2 percent inflation rate, will announce the decision at noon in London on Feb. 10. King will present the results of the bank’s latest quarterly forecasting round at a press conference on Feb. 16.
The panel split three ways last month. Martin Weale joined Andrew Sentance’s push to raise the key rate a quarter point to control prices, while Adam Posen continued a drive he started in October to expand bond purchases to support growth.
“We are at emergency settings now and they’ll need to give a signal that they’ve got one foot on the accelerator back to normal,” said Hilliard, who forecasts the central bank to begin rate increases in August. “Once the cracks start to appear on the MPC, they tend to widen very quickly.”
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