Rate-setters held fire on fresh aid for the economy after a year of record low interest rates and emergency stimulus measures.
The Bank of England marked the first anniversary of quantitative easing (QE) by leaving the programme unchanged at £200 billion and holding borrowing costs at their 0.5% all-time low.
The Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) “wait and see” stance comes after a month of mixed signals as the UK crawls out of recession.
Figures last week showed the economy growing at a faster pace than first thought in the last quarter of 2009, but the 0.3% advance sparked little cheer as the recession was deeper than first thought - a record 6.2%.
Recent surveys showed manufacturing and services activity picking up pace and consumer confidence at its highest level for two years, but VAT hikes and snow have hit retailers.
Meanwhile house prices also registered their first fall in nearly a year during February, according to house price surveys from Halifax and Nationwide.
Members of the MPC have also dropped hints that more QE could be in the offing if the recovery fails to gain traction and the threat of a dreaded “double-dip” recession looms.
The impact of stimulus moves such as VAT cuts and car scrappage schemes are set to fade, while the public finances offer little scope for further give-aways.
The Bank also lowered its growth forecasts in last month’s inflation report, when the Governor said the economy was still “bumping along the bottom”.
“Low rates will help business growth, which is crucial if we are to exit the recession convincingly,” said head of policy at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry Katie Teasdale. “Growth of 0.3 per cent in quarter 4 appears to have been built upon in the first quarter with improved export figures.”
Leaders of the region’s chambers of commerce welcomed the moves.
Head of policy at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry Katie Teasdale said: “Low rates will help business growth, which is crucial if we are to exit the recession convincingly.
“Growth of 0.3 per cent in quarter 4 appears to have been built upon in the first quarter with improved export figures.
“The MPC’s decision not to further extend quantitative easing is reasonable because we need to let the extra monies flush through the system. However, there is still an issue over bank lending which needs to be addressed.
“The Government must play its part and the approaching election is no excuse for paralysis. We need to see a slew of business-friendly measures, the most important of which is the cancellation of one per cent rise in National Insurance contributions scheduled for April next year.”
Black Country Chamber of Commerce president Peter Mathews said: “The Bank of England is correct to keep interest rates on hold. This decision will enable the UK to maintain price stability and therefore economic stability.
“We are clearly not out of the woods yet, and the Monetary Policy Committee must take a long term view when making interest rate decisions and it is crucial that any rate increases in the future are slow and gradual and do not change dramatically in the near future.”
Louise Bennett, the chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Low interest rates are a crucial factor in helping the economy to recover and to grow again so the Bank should continue with this present course.
“As we have said many times before, the Government must play its part by ensuring solid businesses that want to grow can access finance at a lower rate, which is more in line with the base rate.”