Bank of England likely to opt against more stimulus in tight vote

LONDON Wed Nov 7, 2012 7:04pm EST

LONDON Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Bank of England is likely to opt narrowly against another cash injection to support the economy on Thursday despite a fragile recovery, as some policymakers worry about inflation.

The central bank is due to announce its monthly policy decision at 1200 GMT, and economists predict it will not top up its 375 billion pound ($599 billion) programme of government bond purchases and will also keep interest rates on hold.

Just three weeks ago, economists polled by Reuters saw a 60 percent chance of another round of quantitative easing being unveiled this week.

But when they were asked the same question last week, in the wake of data showing surprisingly strong British GDP growth for the July-September period, that probability fell to 40 percent.

Several members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee have also voiced concerns over inflation and doubts about the continued effectiveness of its asset-buying programme in boosting the economy.

Last month, Martin Weale said another round of QE might not be "compatible" with the central bank's inflation target and BoE chief economist Spencer Dale noted that inflation was sticky.

Inflation held above the bank's 2 percent target in September, even before hefty price rises announced by four of Britain's biggest energy suppliers kicked in.

The central bankers are pinning great hopes on their new Funding for Lending Scheme to get credit flowing to households and businesses, but it may take another few months for its effects to show through.

Still, their decision on Thursday is expected to be very close, as surveys show signs of renewed economic weakness.

"The odds look tilted marginally towards the Bank of England holding off from more quantitative easing," said Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.

But he added that he would not be surprised "if the MPC compromised on a halfway house approach", and decided to spend another 25 billion pounds on buying gilts rather than the more usual 50 billion.

If the central bank holds fire as expected, it is unlikely to release a statement and attention will turn to the quarterly inflation and growth forecast updates in its Inflation Report, which BoE Governor Mervyn King will present on Nov. 14.

Further out, more QE is on the cards, with economists pointing to another 50 billion pounds' worth in the first three months of next year to support the fledgling recovery.

Moreover, the euro zone debt crisis continues to dampen demand for British exports and a deterioration in the area could yet prompt the central bank to pump more cash into the economy.