The Bank of England left interest rates at a record low of 0.5 percent for the sixth month running on Thursday and said it would keep its 175 billion pound asset buying programme in place.

Most analysts had predicted the status quo after last month's shock decision to raise the amount of money the BoE is printing to support the economy -- quantitative easing -- by 50 billion pounds.

But sterling jumped, gilts fell and front month short sterling futures turned negative as some strategists had priced in an outside chance the BoE would do more to stimulate an economy battered by its worst recession in decades.

Governor Mervyn King and two other policymakers had actually wanted to raise the QE total to 200 billion pounds last month and analysts said the Monetary Policy Committee might have been split again.

In either case, interest rates are expected to remain ultra-low for months to come and further QE remains a possibility when the current 175 billion pounds runs out in two months. The BoE said the scale of the programme would be kept under review.

A key factor as to whether or not QE is further extended will be whether or not there are growing signs that bank lending is picking up as this is vital to growth, said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at Global Insight.

What is much clearer is that interest rates will remain at 0.5 percent for some considerable time to come. Indeed, we do not expect any rises in interest rates until at least the latter months of 2010.


Some analysts had speculated the BoE would this month at least cut the interest rates it pay banks holding reserves with it, to encourage them to lend rather than park their money at the central bank.

They haven't ruled it out (cutting remuneration of commercial bank deposits) but they haven't talked about it either. If they need to do more, the first step would be to extend QE, said Jonathan Loynes of Capital Economist.

The economic newsflow has been a bit brighter since the BoE's last meeting -- house prices jumped another 0.8 percent last month, according to the Halifax index on Thursday -- and the FTSE-100 index of leading shares is above 5,000 for the first time in 11 months.

If the economic data continues to improve, we could see the first interest rate hike in the first quarter of next year, said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec.

But for now policymakers remain concerned about the durability of any recovery.

Output in the second quarter of this year was 5.5 percent lower than a year ago and most commentators are predicting only slow growth through 2010 with unemployment rising for some time to come.

With the economy still weak and inflation projected to remain well below target for a prolonged period of time, interest rates are not heading up anytime soon, said Hetal Mehta, senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club. (Reporting by Sumeet Desai; editing by Mike Peacock/Ron Askew)