Bank keeps interest rate unchanged
12:54pm Thursday 9th December 2010
© Press Association 2010
The Bank of England has ended the year as it began as it left its emergency support for the economy unchanged.
Policymakers held interest rates at 0.5% for the 20th month in a row and maintained money-boosting efforts at £200 billion under the Bank's quantitative easing (QE) programme.
Stronger-than-expected economic growth and an improved performance in the manufacturing sector in recent months has steadied the Bank's hands, despite expectations of a slowdown in the pace of recovery in the months ahead.
The Bank of England last altered its monetary policy in November 2009, when it increased the level of QE from £175 billion to £200 billion. Interest rates were lowered to their historic low of 0.5% in March 2009.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was widely expected to leave policy unchanged following higher-than-expected third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 0.8%.
The good mood was bolstered by strong official manufacturing figures earlier this week, showing output rose 0.6% month on month in October - the best reading since March and double expectations in the market.
But uncertainty returned on Thursday as the UK's net trade - the difference between exports and imports - widened unexpectedly, knocking hopes for a private sector-led recovery.
And inflation has also been stubbornly high - rising to 3.2% last month - which has prompted repeated calls from one MPC member for a quarter-point rise in interest rates.
The escalating debt crisis in the eurozone is another factor likely to have been discussed at Thursday's MPC meeting, as struggling countries on the Continent could affect the UK's export trade and subsequent growth.
Economists expect another three-way split among the nine-strong MPC this month, with Andrew Sentance likely to vote for a rise in interest rates and Adam Posen expected to favour a second injection of QE.