The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, led by Governor Mervyn King, reduced the bank rate to 3 percent, the biggest single step in more than a decade. The move was predicted by none of the 60 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
The seizure in credit markets has left Britain on the edge of its first recession since 1991, prompting a 50 billion-pound ($80 billion) bank rescue package from the government and a half-point emergency rate cut on Oct. 8. With the economy headed into recession, the danger is that inflation will slow more than policy makers want.
The Bank of England is working with the government to limit the fallout from what it calls the worst global banking crisis in almost a century. Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced last month to broker a takeover of HBOS Plc and Bank of England figures show financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe have already suffered $2.8 trillion in securities losses from the crisis.
Manufacturing is in its longest contraction since 1980, while U.K. house prices fell an annual 14.9 percent in October, the most in at least 25 years, HBOS Plc said today. Unemployment claims rose to the highest level in almost two years in September.