Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bank of England expected to announce more stimulus to boost economy

LONDON: The Bank of England began a two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday that was widely expected to result in more stimulus to boost Britain's recession-hit economy.

Britain's BoE is set to keep its key interest rate at a record-low 0.50 percent - where it has stood for more than three years - and agree to pump out another 50 billion pounds ($78 billion, 62 billion euros) in fresh cash, analysts said.

The central bank's Monetary Policy Committee has so far pumped the economy with
325 billion pounds under its Quantitative Easing (QE) stimulus policy since March 2009, when it also slashed its key rate to its all-time low level.

"The odds strongly favour the Bank of England returning to Quantitative Easing at the conclusion of the Monetary Policy Committee's July meeting on Thursday after halting the programme in May and June," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at the IHS Global Insight consultancy.

"Latest economic data and survey evidence have been weaker and disappointing overall, increasing the risk that the economy suffered further contraction in the second quarter."

Analysts added that the BoE would unveil more QE because British inflation was falling and owing to eurozone debt concerns despite last week's EU summit deal aimed at further tackling the bloc's crisis.

Though not a member of the eurozone, Britain relies heavily on the area for the day-to-day trading of its goods and services.

Also on Thursday, the European Central Bank is forecast to cut it main lending rate from it current record-low level of 1.0 percent.

"The continued deterioration in economic data in the UK and Europe is likely to see both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank ease monetary policy further at their respective monthly meetings," said Michael Hewson, senior analyst at trading group CMC Markets UK.

"At the end of last year in response to fears about the health of the UK economy the Bank of England restarted its asset purchase scheme by 75 billion pounds in an attempt to help support the overall economy.

"Since then the economy has continued to falter... which has prompted calls for further measures to help stimulate demand and get banks to lend money into the economy in an attempt to support growth."

Under QE, the central bank creates new cash to purchase assets such as government and corporate bonds with the aim of boosting lending and economic output.

Britain's recession is meanwhile deeper than initially thought after official data released last week showed the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the first quarter after a higher-than-expected 0.4-percent contraction in late 2011. A recession is defined as two quarters running of contraction.

Despite QE, Britain's main banks have been reluctant to lend to businesses and individuals as they seek to repair their balance sheets, triggering the BoE to recently announce separate stimulus measures.

The Bank of England last month loaned banks 5.0 billion pounds in the first use of a facility to shield Britain's financial system from the eurozone debt crisis.

The BoE allotted the full amount on offer for six-month loans with an interest rate of 0.75 percent, under the central bank's Extended Collateral Term Repo Facility (ECTR).

The BoE, along with the British government, also intends to shortly launch a "funding for lending" scheme - lasting several years - that would offer cheap loans to banks in exchange for a wide range of collateral and on the condition that they increased lending to small businesses.

Reports said that about 80 billion pounds would be made available under the scheme.

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

British 12-month inflation fell to a rate of 2.8 percent in May - the lowest level for more than two years - from 3.0 percent in April.

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