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Bank of England governor Mark Carney speaks during a news conference at the Bank of England in London, December 1, 2015.SUZANNE PLUNKETT/Reuters

As the U.S. Federal Reserve plots a return to tighter monetary policy and the European Central Bank searches for creative ways to continue easing, a handful of other major central banks are still treading water.

That includes the Bank of England, which is expected to leave interest rates untouched at its policy-setting meeting on Thursday.

The central bank's benchmark rate of 0.5 per cent has remained unchanged since March, 2009.

"We don't think the Bank of England will do anything," said Vicky Redwood, chief U.K. economist with Capital Economics in London.

"They seem happy to pause for now."

But the bank still appears on track to join the Fed in the lonely tightening camp some time next year – provided the economy isn't derailed by a renewed government fiscal squeeze, a stronger British pound or heavy storms blowing across the English Channel from the still struggling euro area.

The bank's monetary policy committee has voted 8-1 against raising rates at every meeting since August, confounding analysts who had surmised that Governor Mark Carney and his colleagues would begin increasing rates gradually this year.

"The likely timing of the first bank rate increase is drawing closer," Mr. Carney told reporters in August. But he added that such a policy shift would be "data dependent." And by November, the central bank was reducing both its growth and inflation forecasts and indicating that rates would stay where they were well into 2016.

Economist Gertjan Vlieghe, one of the four members of the committee not employed by the central bank, recently warned of the dampening impact of a stronger British pound on inflation and the economy and seemed in no hurry to support tighter policy.

At any rate, Mr. Carney appears content to sit on the sidelines and watch for any fallout from the Fed's policy transition.

"They want to see the Fed raise rates first and make sure markets can tolerate that," said Bank of Montreal senior economist Benjamin Reitzes.

Unless domestic conditions deteriorate, though, the Bank of England should pull the trigger on rate hikes by about the middle of next year, he said. "We have May pencilled in right now. But that might change, depending on what the Fed does."

A slew of economic numbers coming this week, including industrial production, retail sales and trade figures, are unlikely to alter the bank's timetable.

Industrial output likely improved a bit in October, retailers are believed to have had a strong November, and house prices have been climbing to the point where Mr. Carney has warned that the bank may have to tighten mortgage-lending rules. But the trade deficit likely widened again after narrowing in September.

"Britain has been one of the better economic performers [leading all Group of Seven countries]," Mr. Reitzes said. "Domestic demand has been pretty good, but they have the same problem that the U.S. has. Foreign demand is not as strong as they would like it to be."

The resurgent currency – particularly against the battered euro – has made life particularly tough for exporters already dealing with weaker demand across Europe and other key markets. Manufacturing contracted in both the second and third quarters. But there is some light amid the gloom, thanks to healthier domestic spending and improved competitiveness stemming from lower oil and other commodity prices.

"There are grounds for hope for manufacturers," said Howard Archer, chief European and U.K. economist with IHS Economics in London.

Revised estimates still peg Britain's annual economic growth at 2.3 per cent in the third quarter, down only slightly from the previous three months.

But there are other clouds on the horizon for 2016 that monetary officials may not be able to ignore. These include a renewed fiscal squeeze, which could hit consumer spending. Then there is the possible effect on business investment if Prime Minister David Cameron fails to win the reforms he is seeking to keep Britain in the European Union.

And here's one other caveat to keep in mind: The last thing any central banker wants is to change monetary direction prematurely, only to be forced into a confidence-sapping retreat.