LONDON: The Bank of England (BoE) signalled yesterday it was likely to pump more money into the struggling British economy if the euro crisis causes more mayhem, and the government flagged new steps to boost growth.
Evidence that both may be needed was sharply underlined by data showing that Britons have been shopping much less and factories getting far fewer orders.
In minutes of its May meeting, the BoE reported that while eight of nine policymakers voted to end a £325 billion round of asset buying to keep interest rates low, they had not closed the door on more.
Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was an "absolute priority" to get credit into the economy and pledged to "massively" amplify what the government was doing in its £20bn credit-easing scheme.
Both echoed a prescription delivered on Tuesday by International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, who urged the central bank to buy more assets - possibly including company bonds and mortgages - and called on the government to find money to boost infrastructure spending.
Fears of contagion from the euro crisis are weighing heavily on Britain, which relies on the next door bloc for much of its trade. But even without this the country is still reeling from the 2008-2009 slump that has left many people worse off and drove unemployment to its highest level since the mid-1990s.
The inflation outlook swayed the majority of BoE policy-makers to vote against expanding the existing asset purchase programme, according to the minutes.
Only David Miles urged another £25bn of purchases, known as quantitative easing.
But for several members the decision was "finely balanced".
There was a case for more easing, the minutes said, because the risks from the euro zone crisis could hurt business and consumer confidence more than expected and the rise in the pound may help to dampen price pressures.
Sterling fell and British government bond prices rose as investors priced in a higher likelihood of more stimulus.