(In paragraph 15, makes clear bonds will mature just after next
meeting, not before)
* Bank of England set to announce no change to policy
* Focus now on inflation report next week
* Analysts await clues on changes to forward guidance
* BoE to announce reinvestment of maturing gilts from QE
By Andy Bruce
LONDON, Feb 6 Bank of England officials are
likely to use their meeting on Thursday to work out how to steer
interest rate expectations now their previous plan has been
overtaken by Britain's strong economic recovery.
While this week's meeting is not expected to result in any
announcement, policymakers will be focused on quarterly economic
forecasts due next Wednesday, which will provide clues on how
they will alter their "forward guidance" policy.
Bank policymakers have been forced to rethink their plan to
link policy decisions to the unemployment rate, which has fallen
far faster than they expected.
Since the bank introduced forward guidance in August, the
jobless rate has plunged close to the 7.0 percent mark at which
it had said it would review interest rates. The BoE originally
forecast that level would not be reached until well into 2016.
With the economic recovery quickening and markets pricing in
at least some chance of a rate hike late this year, BoE
officials have had to stress repeatedly they have no plans to
act any time soon.
Governor Mark Carney has said the Bank will start looking at
how to "evolve" guidance this month, generally taken to mean
when it gives its quarterly inflation report next Wednesday.
Options range from broadening the indicators used from the
unemployment rate to include, say, wage growth; or copying the
U.S. Federal Reserve's "dot chart" - a published matrix of each
policymaker's view on future interest rates.
The BoE may not set out in detail next week how it will
expand forward guidance but the inflation report might at least
"Although the BoE shows every sign of wanting to keep
interest rates low for quite a while longer, the economy is
tightening faster than they had expected," said Robert Wood,
chief UK economist at Berenberg.
"We expect the first rate hike in the first quarter of 2015,
with a 30 percent chance of an increase in the fourth quarter of
2014. Any further guidance at the inflation report press
conference next week is unlikely to risk putting the BoE too far
behind the curve."
While emerging market troubles have sent financial markets
reeling, surveys this week showed British manufacturing and
services sustaining strong growth through January.
A survey from Visa Europe on Thursday showed consumer
spending - including shopping, eating out and hotels - also rose
solidly in January, up 1.5 percent from a year ago.
"Against a backdrop of falling joblessness and robust
economic growth, consumer confidence has surged and underpinned
a continued improvement in expenditure," said Paul Smith,
director at data company Markit that compiled the survey.
The European Central Bank also meets on Thursday and in
contrast to the BoE, there is talk of further policy loosening
to combat very weak inflation - although most economists do not
expect it to move this week.
While the BoE is unlikely to make a major policy
announcement on Thursday, analysts are watching for confirmation
that the Monetary Policy Committee will choose to reinvest the
proceeds of government bonds the Bank bought through
quantitative easing and which will mature a day after the next
meeting in March.
To announce otherwise would represent an unexpected
effective tightening of monetary policy.
"We do expect the MPC to use the February meeting to confirm
that they will reinvest the associated cash flows back into
conventional gilts with a residual maturity of at least three
years," wrote Sam Hill, economist at RBC Capital Markets.
"That will result in 8.2 billion (pounds) of purchases by
the Bank, which are expected to take place from the week
commencing March 10."
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)