Interest rates on hold amid fears economy is stalling

Worst drop in growth since Lehman failure

The Bank of England kept interest rates at a record low yesterday after the economy suffered its biggest loss of momentum since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggered the global recession.

The Monetary Policy Committee's decision to put the weakening economy ahead of fears about inflation was widely expected after the gloomy data of recent weeks.

Yesterday's announcement of a slowdown in the all-important services sector reinforced the picture of a slowing economy after drops in manufacturing and construction growth. The three April PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) surveys suffered their largest drop since November 2008, just after Lehman went bust.

The dominant service sector grew less than expected in April after hitting a 13-month high in March. The Markit/Cips headline services PMI index slipped to 54.3 in April from 57.1 in March, staying in growth territory above 50.0 for a fourth straight month, but missing the 55.7 forecast.

The grim figures for April indicate the economy is slowing after the tepid 0.5 per cent growth in the first quarter of this year. Taken with the surprise 0.5 per cent contraction in the final quarter of 2010 the economy stagnated around the turn of the year.

The services survey highlighted the twin pressures faced by the MPC as it grapples with faltering economic growth and prices rising twice as fast as its 2 per cent target.

Average prices charged by services companies rose more steeply in April and registered the strongest reading since September 2008.

Markit's chief economist, Chris Williamson, said the hot April, volatile official construction figures, the royal wedding and the Japanese earthquake were among factors that confused the economic picture.

"This uncertainty, plus the modest rate of growth suggested by the PMIs, adds weight to the belief that policymakers at the Bank of England will err on the side of caution at the next two meetings at least, choosing to wait for a clearer picture of the pace of economic growth to emerge," he said.

All eyes will be on the minutes of the MPC's meeting in two weeks to see how the nine-strong committee split. Andrew Sentance, the MPC's resident inflation hawk, is expected to have voted again for a half-point increase in borrowing costs at his last meeting before leaving the committee.

But the bank's chief economist, Spencer Dale, and external member Martin Weale could have changed their positions in light of the recent grim data.

Mr Weale said two weeks ago he was disappointed by the economy's performance while Mr Dale has said his vote for a rate rise was based on growth returning to normal this year.

"The dynamics with the MPC could now change significantly, as the arch hawk Andrew Sentance is now leaving," The IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said: "We expect the BoE to delay raising interest rates... until November, and it is far from inconceivable that it could hold fire until 2012."

The Bank's Governor, Mervyn King, will present the Bank's latest set of quarterly economic forecasts next Wednesday. The MPC discussed the findings at this week's meeting.

people And here is why...
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?