Shock news! The Bank discovers optimism

The Bank of England's latest report forecasts inflation close to target and robust growth by the end of this year. Ben Chu examines the numbers

Sir Mervyn King yesterday signalled that the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme could be coming to end sooner than many financial analysts expected. The central bank's quarterly Inflation Report forecast that inflation will rise to 1.8 per cent by 2014, up from the 1.3 per cent prediction it made last November.

The CPI inflation rate is 3.6 per cent at the moment, but the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee expects inflation to fall drastically over this year, creating a medium-term risk of the central bank undershooting its target. Earlier this month the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee increased its asset purchase scheme by £50bn to £325bn. Yesterday's higher inflation forecast indicates that the MPC believes that that additional monetary easing will be sufficient to bring inflation back to target.

"The Inflation Report was on the hawkish side of expectations," said Alan Clarke of Scotia Capital. "Although, as ever, the Bank kept its options open, the level of the two-year-ahead inflation projection means that it is more likely than not that this latest phase of quantitative easing will be the last."

Some private sector analysts had predicted that the total QE programme would reach as much as £600bn.

Sir Mervyn also unveiled an upbeat message on UK growth. "With falling inflation and the prospect of an end to the squeeze in real incomes leading to a recovery in growth, we are moving in the right direction," he said.

The Governor admitted that there is likely to be a "zig-zag" pattern of alternating positive and negative growth rates over the coming months, but the Inflation Report forecasts the UK economy to be growing at a rate of more than 2 per cent by the end of this year.

Some analysts disagreed. The chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, David Kern, said: "While we agree that growth will gradually strengthen from the middle of 2012 onwards, the pace of improvement is likely to prove slower than the report predicts."

The Governor did, however, concede that the Bank's forecasts did not factor in the possibility of a potentially disastrous escalation of the eurozone financial crisis.

Sir Mervyn reiterated his view that small firms were suffering as a result of a credit squeeze imposed by private banks. But he said that it would be inappropriate for the Bank to buy up small business loans as part of its asset purchase scheme in order to ease the flow of credit to such firms – something that has been urged by the MPC member Adam Posen. "The first principle is that you need to use the banking system," said Sir Mervyn.

The Treasury is preparing a £20bn national loan guarantee scheme to be unveiled in the March Budget. But Sir Mervyn warned that the details of such a scheme would need to be carefully constructed to prevent the banks "dumping" bad loans on the Treasury. He said: "If the Government feels there is a particular problem with small businesses then the answer is a special scheme for small businesses, but the principle needs to be... to use the infrastructure of the banking system [and to] share the risks between the banks and elsewhere so the banks don't try to dump the worst risks on the public sector."

Sir Mervyn expressed his sympathy for savers, who are receiving negligible returns as inflation, for now, continues to outstrip interest rates. But he said that it would be counterproductive for the Bank to increase interest rates to help as this would simply damage the fragile economy. "These are consequences of the painful adjustment prompted by the financial crisis and the need to rebalance our economy," he said.

The forecasts in numbers

2 per cent The rate at which the Bank's latest Inflation Report forecasts the UK economy to be growing by the end of 2012.

1.8 per cent The Bank's estimated inflation rate in 2014 – up from 1.3 per cent last November and closerto the official target of2 per cent.

£325bn The scale of the Bank of England's asset purchase scheme, which might now not be extended.

0.5 per cent The Bank of England's benchmark interest rate, which is unlikely to be raised before 2014.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
science
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before