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British banker: Lower rates possible

Dec. 19, 2008 at 2:14 PM

LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A Bank of England official said that cuts in the bank's key lending rate to near zero were a possibility.

"We have to recognize that (zero interest rates are) a possibility," the bank's deputy governor, Charlie Bean, said.

"The bank rate is still at 2 percent, so we have some margin to go yet, but of course we may find ourselves getting them all the way to near zero," he said, the Telegraph reported Friday.

A cut to near zero would match steps made in the United States, where the Federal Reserve set its lending rate to a range between zero and 0.25 percent Tuesday.

The value of British currency is rising as a concern. The pound fell 23 percent against "a basket of other currencies," the Telegraph reported.

"A weak currency arises from a weak economy which in turn is the result of a weak government," Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said, borrowing a phrase used by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 1992.

Osborne said the decline in the pound was "the verdict of the international markets on this government's economic record."

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