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Bank of England leaves benchmark interest rate unchanged

LONDON — With the British economy showing feeble signs of resilience and a new central bank governor waiting in the wings, the Bank of England decided Thursday to keep its benchmark interest rate and its economic stimulus program unchanged.

The central bank left its interest rate at 0.5 percent, a record low, and also held its program of bond-buying at 375 billion pounds or about $581 billion. The stimulus program, also known as quantitative easing, frees more money for lending to businesses and individuals.

Some economists expect the Bank of England to expand its stimulus program later this year to help the recovery, while others said recent economic data were encouraging and that further stimulus might not be necessary.

“There are broad improvements in business sentiment and with equity markets heading to new highs, we are not expecting anything” until Mark Carney takes over as governor of the Bank of England in July, said James Knightley, an economist at ING Bank in London.

—Julia Werdigier, The New York Times

Family-planning officials investigate Chinese film director

BEIJING — China’s most celebrated film director, Zhang Yimou, is being investigated for a potential violation of family-planning laws, according to state news media reports that were confirmed by an official Thursday.

Family-planning officials are examining discussions on the Internet that say Zhang has fathered up to seven children with four women. If he is found to have violated the laws, he could be fined nearly $27 million because the fines are based on the offender’s income, according to a report on the Web version of People’s Daily, whose print edition is the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

An official in a propaganda office attached to the family-planning committee of Jiangsu province, near Shanghai on the east coast, confirmed the substance of the People’s Daily online report, which was published Wednesday. The official said further details could be provided by the family-planning committee of Wuxi, the city where Chen Ting, Zhang’s second wife, is officially registered as a resident.

Although the family-planning laws generally restrict urban families to one child, many rural families and ethnic minorities are allowed to have more than one without penalty. Xinhua, the state news agency, said Thursday that the local family-planning committee would release the results of their investigation into Zhang “soon.”

—Edward Wong, The New York Times