BRITAIN-BANK/RATESWhen the Bank of England decided to expand its quantitative easing policy by 25 billion pounds to 200 billion on Thursday, it was essentially hedging its bets.

After Britain's economy shrank unexpectedly in the third quarter, and with two thirds of the City expecting an expansion to the QE programme, simply shutting off the tap of government bond purchases would risk being more of a shock than the economy could bear.

On the other hand, the Bank clearly believes that the worst is over for the economy and that recovery will come soon -- even if it's going to be weak.

Thursday's decision means the central bank will keep buying government debt until February, but at only half the pace of before. This still amounts to around 2 billion pounds a week, not including the much smaller sums of corporate debt that the Bank is buying.

What the decision means for a typical household is harder to calculate. The Bank says that its quantitative easing programme has raised the price of government and corporate
bonds, making borrowing cheaper.