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BOE Split 7-2 on Feb Rate Call, Minority Wanted Hike

Two members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee opposed this month's decision to leave interest rates steady, preferring an immediate quarter percentage point increase.

Minutes of the Feb 7-8 meeting published on Wednesday showed Tim Besley and

Andrew Sentance felt the 75 basis points' worth of rate rises since last August was "modest relative to the rise in inflation and the prospective robust outlook for demand".

But they were outgunned by the rest of the nine-strong MPC who thought a closely spaced series of rates increases might lead to excessive tightening.

"There was time to observe the impact of past decisions and to see whether any of the upside or downside risks were crystallizing," the minutes said.

Sterling fell after the report as investors scaled back bets for another rate rise as soon as next month.

"The minutes convey the idea that the majority of the MPC still feels it's appropriate to delay further tightening as they await further evidence," said Adam Chester, economist at HBOS.

But the decision for the MPC still clearly remained between further rises and steady rates.

"It was difficult to judge whether, and if so by how much, policy might need to be further tightened to keep inflation on track to meet the target," the minutes said.

But some MPC members put considerable weight on the downside risks to inflation in the near-term while others remained focused on the fast pace of money growth and rising asset prices such as the housing market.

One member, probably David Blanchflower, reckoned there was more spare capacity in the labor market than the others and this would depress wages.

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