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Bank likely to call time on QE

Source: Reuters - Thu 4th Feb 2010

Eleven months and 200 billion pounds later, the Bank of England looks set on Thursday to pause its unprecedented asset-buying scheme to boost the economy in what could become the first step back to more normal policy.

The jury remains out on whether it worked. Critics note the economy grew by just 0.1 percent at the end of 2009 after an 18-month downturn that wiped out 6 percent of output and left Britain as the last major country out of recession.

But others say the outcome would have been much worse if the central bank had not pumped so much newly-minted money into the economy by buying UK government bonds.

Either way, the overwhelming majority of analysts polled by Reuters predict the Bank will announce no further increases to this asset buying - quantitative easing or QE in the jargon - when the Monetary Policy Committee meeting ends at noon.

Policymakers also look sure to leave interest rates at a record low of 0.5 percent and few analysts expect any upward move until much later in the year.

And given the uncertainty about the economy - especially as fiscal policy could end up being much tighter after an election expected on May 6 - the Bank will probably want to keep the door open to further QE if growth falters.

"We believe that the MPC are most likely to hold off from further extending the QE programme on Thursday" said Howard Archer, economist at consultancy IHS Global Insight.

"However, we expect the MPC to keep the door ajar to further QE by indicating that it is keeping all policy options open and that it will be prepared to act if the economy fails to develop recovery during the early months of 2010." 

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