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Interest rates held as Bank buys £50bn more debt

Rather than purchasing £75billion of Government and corporate debt as already announced, the Monetary Policy Committee voted in favour of expanding the asset purchase programme by a further £50billion.

That means a total of £125billion of debt will have been purchased by the end of the next three months – but the MPC also stressed that it would "keep the scale of the programme under review".

These historically low interest rates clearly benefit homeowners with mortgages – but they are having a huge negative impact on millions of savers.

Rumina Hassam, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, said: "It’s a case of being thankful for small mercies for UK savers, whose fears of enduring further rate cuts on their savings accounts will have been alleviated following the MPC’s decision to hold interest rates at 0.5% for the second month running.

"With many UK economists even predicting that this rate freeze is likely to remain for a 12 month period, now is the time for savers to take stock and review their accounts in order to take advantage of more competitive deals that are beginning to emerge as the market gradually begins to stabilise.

"Unfortunately, research from uSwitch.com indicates that 22 million UK savers are still confused, having not taken basic action to check what rate they are currently getting on their existing savings accounts.

"Worryingly, 5.5 million (23.6%) of these have simply lost track of their rates following the rate cuts, whilst 3.7 million despondent savers (16%) have actively refused to even check their rate.

"With the average variable rate currently standing at just 0.87% and the average fixed rate at a low 2.78%, many admit that they find their savings situation to be ‘too depressing’ to address or look for any solution.

"However savers mustn’t resign themselves to suffering low rates as there are signs that the market is becoming reinvigorated. Alliance & Leicester announced the reintroduction of their Premier Regular Saver account for a limited period, which pays an attractive 7% AER. However, as with all market leading deals in the current climate there are restrictions and customers must be prepared to open a linked current account and deposit an additional £500 per month into it.

"It will be some time before savers see the wealth of choice and kinds of returns they enjoyed in the boom years, but at least the market is showing some signs of rehabilitation."

Meanwhile David Kuo, Director at the financial website The Motley Fool – Fool.co.uk, said: "The Bank of England has already slashed interest rates to a level where further cuts will have no discernible impact. So, today’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.5% is not unexpected.

"That said, the Central Bank still has plenty of gunpowder left in its keg to blast the UK economy out of the doldrums. It has only printed two-thirds of the £75billion of fresh money authorised by the Government. It can pump in another £75billion after that.

"For now, printing money has not had any measurable effect. But at some point, quantitative easing will increase money supply. However, it will come at a heavy price – inflation.

"Over the long term, only two asset classes have beaten inflation. These are property and shares. The Motley Fool therefore urges savers to start thinking like investors and ensure that any cash that can be put away for five years or more is invested in one or, better still, both of these inflation-beating assets."

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