A man sits on a bus as it passes the Bank of England in the financial district of the City of London. Picture: Reuters

London - The Bank of England on Thursday voted at a regular policy meeting to hold its reference interest rate at a record-low 0.50

percent, where it has stood for four years, and opted against increasing its cash stimulus programme to boost a British economy on the brink of recession.

“The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee today voted to maintain the official Bank Rate paid on commercial bank reserves at 0.5 percent,” the BoE said in a statement following a two-day gathering.

“The Committee also voted to maintain the stock of asset purchases financed by the issuance of central bank reserves at £375 billion” ($589 billion, 434 billion euros).

Analysts had said the decision over stimulus, or quantitative easing (QE), had been on a knife-edge with Britain at risk of its third recession since 2009.

Minutes of the latest meeting, explaining the reasons behind the BoE's latest monthly policy decisions, are to be published on March 20, the central bank said.

Recent official data showed that British gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the previous three months. Another contraction in the first quarter of 2013 would officially place Britain in a rare “triple-dip” recession.

Against this backdrop, Moody's ratings agency last month lowered its top-level AAA credit rating for Britain.

Moody's downgraded Britain by one notch from AAA to Aa1, arguing that government debt was still mounting and that growth was too weak to reverse the trend before 2016. - Sapa-AFP