Sharply conflicting views greeted the Bank of England's decision yesterday to keep its official interest rate unchanged at 4.5 per cent for a third month.
Although any other outcome would have come as a rude shock to the City, only a month ago many independent economists were confidently predicting a cut in November.
Yesterday Roger Bootle of Deloitte, a leading advocate of cheaper borrowing, predicted it would come in February. The Bank will give an uptodate account of its assessment of the economy in its quarterly Inflation Report next Wednesday.
Yesterday both the CBI and the EEF accepted that the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee was right to leave the rate on hold this month. The opposite view was taken by the British Chambers of Commerce, speaking mainly for small business and the TUC.
The British Retail Consortium accepted that this month's standstill was inevitable, although clothes retailers in particular would have welcomed a cut.
Inflation rose to an eightyear high of 2.5 per cent in September, driven by high oil prices, well above the Bank's two per cent target.
The BRC's director general Kevin Hawkins said: "We did not expect any change in interest rates from the Bank of England, although clearly a further reduction in the runup to Christmas would have been helpful to both retailers and industry in general.
" However, given the upward pressure on inflation, continued stability in the current rate is our most important objective for the time being."
TUC, chief economist Ian Brinkley said he would have preferred a cut.
"Official figures published this week showed that manufacturing output went into reverse in September, falling by 0.3 per cent on the previous month," he said. "Retailers report that high street trading is still tough.
"Against this background, interest rates should come down soon."
His counterpart at the CBI, Ian McCafferty was more cautious, describing the economy as "mixed".
He said: "While conditions remain difficult in the retail and manufacturing sectors there are some signs of a recovery in the housing market. In the face of high oil prices and the risks of inflation, the Bank has opted to maintain a steady course and to watch for signs of improvement in consumer confidence before making any hasty decisions.
"The economy is still growing at a reasonable pace and will continue to do so next year, but there are potential risks with regard to both growth and inflation which the Bank must remain alert to."
Emily Earl, EEF senior economist, said: "The Bank continues to walk the tightrope between the outlook for inflation remaining above target and an uncertain growth picture.
" Whilst the decision remains finely balanced, the MPC is right to stick to its steady approach for the time being."
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the Bank should have been bolder to counter a worsening economic situation.
He noted the economy has now grown below its long-term trend for five quarters in succession. Manufacturing output is in recession, he added, and unemployment has risen for eight months running.
"While we appreciate that the MPC faces serious uncertainties, waiting too long before taking corrective action also entails major risks.
"The economic situation has worsened considerably and business confidence is weak and it is therefore critically important that the MPC should maintain a flexible approach and should stand ready to counter the sharp slowdown in the pace of economic activity."