BoE officials split on likely QE need, efficacy - minutes

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October 17, 2012 7:49 PM EST

Bank of England policymakers are split over whether they are likely to need to buy more government debt, and if it will help the economy much if they do, minutes of their October meeting showed on Wednesday.

The nine members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to maintain the quantitative easing asset purchases at a total of 375 billion pounds and to keep interest rates at their record low of 0.5 percent.

But these purchases will be complete by the time of the Monetary Policy Committee's meeting next month, and October's minutes show the nine policymakers continue to disagree on whether more will be needed.

"There were some differences of view between members about the outlook and the likelihood that further easing in policy would be required," the minutes said.

The Bank's chief economist Spencer Dale and external MPC member Ben Broadbent both opposed the last expansion of asset purchases in July and last week another external member, Martin Weale, also expressed scepticism about further purchases.

October's minutes did not use the phrase in the previous month's minutes that some policymakers "felt that additional stimulus was more likely than not to be needed".

Most economists polled by Reuters expect the central bank to extend its government bond purchases once the current 50 billion pound round is completed and the policymakers can base their decision on new growth and inflation forecasts.

There were also doubts about the effectiveness of more asset purchases.

Last week Bank Governor Mervyn King said that monetary policy would ultimately reach the limit of what it could do to help growth - though he did not say this point was near - and this month's minutes showed differences within the MPC.

"Some members felt that there was still considerable scope for asset purchases to provide further stimulus. Other members, ... questioned the magnitude of the impact that lower long-term yields on corporate debt and equity would have on the broader economy," the minutes said.

Though Britain probably exited recession and posted some growth in the third quarter, weak business surveys have stoked fears of a relapse as the government's austerity drive and the euro zone debt crisis continue to weigh on the economy.

The MPC said that the outlook for growth and inflation over the medium term had not changed much over the previous month, although an expected pick-up in growth was taking longer than expected to materialise.

Inflation - which fell back to a near 3-year low of 2.2 percent in September - may rise in the short term, due to higher energy, utility and food prices, but was likely to stay close to its 2 percent target, the MPC said.

The Bank's Funding for Lending Scheme, which offers banks cheap credit if they lend more, was showing some "encouraging" signs of helping the mortgage market, but could take longer to benefit businesses, the minutes added.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Alessandra Prentice)

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