Bank of England holds policy steady as King heads for exit

Thu Jun 6, 2013 8:21am EDT
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By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) - Bank of England Governor Mervyn King's final rate-setting meeting ended in a subdued fashion on Thursday with no change to policy despite the governor's calls for more stimulus.

The bank's decision to leave policy steady before the arrival next month of King's successor - former Canadian central bank chief Mark Carney - was widely expected by economists, as recent data suggests Britain's recovery is gathering strength.

"While the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) hopefully gave Sir Mervyn King a nice leaving present, this did not include the further monetary stimulus that he has been asking for since February," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.

How King cast his final vote - after attending every MPC meeting since the BoE gained independence in 1997 - will not be confirmed until minutes of the meeting are published on June 19.

Since February he and two other members of the nine-member committee have voted at each meeting for an extra 25 billion pounds of bond purchases on top of the 375 billion pounds' worth bought from March 2009 to October 2012.

Their argument has been that even if a fragile recovery is in train, growth is still too weak for there to be much risk that more stimulus would generate higher inflation.

But although inflation fell more than expected to 2.4 percent in April, it is not forecast to return to its 2 percent target for another two years, and May's purchasing managers' data suggest the economy is on track to grow by 0.5 percent in the current quarter.

Economists said there remained a near 50 percent chance that the central bank would restart its stimulus program later this year, after Carney's arrival in July.   Continued...

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King speaks to reporters at the close of the G7 Finance Ministers and central bank governors summit at Hartwell House in Aylesbury, southern England May 11, 2013. REUTERS/Yui Mok/POOL