Bank leaves door open for more QE

Bank of England policymakers left the door open for an additional injection of cash into the faltering economy in February, judging that the time was not ripe yet for more easing given uncertainty about the euro crisis, minutes to the Bank's 7 and 8 December meeting showed.

All nine members of the central bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted to maintain the target level of quantitative asset purchases at £275bn and the key interest rate unchanged at the record low of 0.5 per cent.

Overall, the MPC concluded that the balance of risks for growth and inflation had not really changed over the past month.

However, some of the policymakers flagged their readiness to boost the economy further.

"Some members continued to note that the balance of risks to inflation in the November Inflation Report projections meant that a further expansion of the asset purchases programme might well become warranted in due course," the minutes said.

"Of those members, some thought that the outlook had deteriorated somewhat on the month," they said.

Others however continued to see the risk that inflation could fall more slowly than projected, noting continued strength in import and goods inflation.

Many economists expect the central bank to increase the total of its asset purchases in February.

Bank Deputy Governor Charles Bean and chief economist Spencer Dale have both indicated that they would want to wait until the current programme of gilt purchases runs out at the end of January to assess the need for further stimulus based on the Bank's forecast update in February's Inflation Report.

But Paul Fisher indicated that more quantitative easing may be necessary to boost an economy on the brink of recession.

The minutes showed that the risks from the euro zone crisis loomed large, driving up banks' funding costs and increasing market volatility.

The minutes noted that the market stress seemed to have eased somewhat in the run-up to the European leaders' meeting on 8 and 9 December, after the Bank's policy decision.

The minutes repeated policymakers assessment that fine tuning policy was not the right choice.

"All members agreed, however, that given the magnitude of the current uncertainties, in the external environment in particular, relative to the precision with which the appropriate stance of policy could be calibrated, there was little merit in changing the path of asset purchases at this meeting," the minutes said.