Industry should this week get the interest rate cut it has been demanding, economic pundits are predicting.

A quarter point reduction in base rate back to 4.5 per cent is a "done deal" they believe.

The Bank of England's rate-setting monetary policy committee will begin its monthly two-day meeting on Wednesday against a background of an economic slowdown fuelled largely by a cut in spending on the part of hard pressed homeowners.

The fragility of the manufacturing sector, which has suffered a double blow of higher borrowing costs and a strong pound, should also, finally, weigh on the minds of MPC members, who last month voted by a majority of just one to keep rates on hold.

A vote to cut this week will signal a change in direction by the MPC, which has left rates on hold at 4.75 per cent for 11 months after a string of increases.

The bid to revive the economy follows official data released this month showing the economy grew at its slowest rate in 12 years.

Other figures showed personal debt rose at its slowest pace in more than two years in June, suggesting households' appetite for debt is weakening.

Philip Shaw, economist at Investec Securities, said the more subdued economic background was the main motivation for easing rates.

"Thursday should confirm what most Bank of England watchers are suspecting, namely that the interest rate cycle has turned."

The higher cost of borrowing has been successful in slowing consumer spending and stabilising the housing market. However, stronger retail sales data for the month of June complicated the picture.

Mr Shaw said he expected the Bank to show a degree of caution when considering the outlook for the rest of the year.

He said: "We are still tending to view that the MPC will be cautious in untwisting the monetary screw too quickly." Investec expects rates to fall to four per cent next year.

Economist John Butler at HSBC said: "We expect a cut in August and then for the MPC to pause to await the response, if any, from the corporate and household sector."

Ross Walker, at Royal Bank of Scotland, believed this month's decision was a "done deal" and said he was expecting one further reduction --although probably not until next year.

The pound has weakened against the US dollar and the euro in recent weeks and this has gone some way toward reviving the fortunes of exporters. But a pick up in demand for British goods overseas is doing little to offset falls in domestic order books, the latest CBI industrial trends survey found. Despite this, companies are confident that export prospects in the coming months are healthy despite mounting pressure from competitors in China and India, according to a new report out today .

A survey of 500 members of the Institute of Directors showed that four out of five predicted export growth would remain steady or improve for the rest of the year with Europe, America and Asia offering the best prospects.

Richard Wilson of the IoD said: "As global competition is increasingly fierce, our country's exporters are under mounting pressure to keep up with foreign markets, particularly rapidly developing markets such as China and India.

"The other key obstacle currently facing exporters is the relative strength of sterling against the dollar and the euro. In light of this, individual businesses have to continue to improve the quality and innovation behind their goods and services and market them successfully."

One in five directors said exports contributed over half of their businesses' total revenue.