Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Freeze on UK interest rates continues

Interest rate graph

UK interest rates have been left at 0.5% following the Bank of England's latest meeting.

The cost of borrowing has been at a record low since March 2009 and economists do not expect the central bank to raise rates in the near term.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) also maintained the quantitative easing (QE), or asset buying, programme at £200bn.

The UK is thought to have exited recession in the last quarter of 2009.

The MPC said it expected its QE programme to take another month to complete and that the scale of the programme would be kept under review.

'Challenging year'

Roger Bootle, economic adviser to consultants Deloitte, said the MPC's latest meeting was a "holding operation", as the committee is in "wait-and-see mode" until its next inflation report in February.

There's a much bigger problem with explaining the MPC's actions, which is that even if they all agree that a pause is the right way forward, they won't necessarily agree on why
Stephanie Flanders, BBC economics editor

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, saw "no surprises" in the MPC's announcement.

"The environment for the MPC now becomes much more challenging. Firstly it has to decide whether to provide more QE next month - it is possible, but we doubt that it will," he said.

"Beyond that the issue will be whether to tighten and if so, when and by how much. It is going to be a very challenging year to be a policy maker."

Manufacturers said they supported the Bank's decision.

"The recovery is now underway, but its strength remains in doubt," said Lee Hopley, chief economist of the manufacturers' organisation, the EEF.

"There are a number of potential pitfalls even as the UK economy starts growing again, including cautious consumers, questions over the public finances and a still-fragile banking system."

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