LONDON - The Bank of England kept its interest rate at 0.50 percent on Thursday, confounding expectations for a reduction -- but signalled a possible August cut in response to Brexit.

At its first monetary policy meeting since the June 23 referendum vote on Brexit, the BoE also maintained the amount of cash stimulus pumping around the economy at £375 billion ($497 billion, 448 billion euros), it said in a statement.

The central bank added that the majority of its nine policymakers supported looser monetary policy in its next decision due August 4. "The precise size and nature of any stimulatory measures will be determined" next month, the statement said.

BoE governor Mark Carney has warned that Britain could fall into recession as businesses delay new projects because of the shock referendum vote to exit the EU.

At July's meeting on Wednesday, only one member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Gertjan Vlieghe, voted for a cut in the interest rate to a record-low 0.25 percent, while all members backed keeping quantitative easing (QE) stimulus at £375 billion.

"The MPC was committed to taking whatever action was needed to support growth and to return inflation to the (2.0-percent) target over an appropriate horizon," minutes of the latest meeting said.

"To that end, most members of the Committee expected monetary policy to be loosened in August," they added.

The British pound briefly jumped above $1.34, while London's FTSE 100 index sank into negative territory after the central bank announcements.

The FTSE closed 0.24 percent lower at 6,654.47 points, despite a hint that the bank would cut rates next month.

Explaining the divergence in markets, ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson told AFP:

"Lower rates tend to boost equities because investors are not getting returns in cash/bonds and so seek out yield from" company shares. "A weak pound is good for the FTSE 100 as about 75 percent of earnings are from overseas," he added.

Following the referendum result, the pound slumped to a 31-year-low under $1.28, before rebounding in recent days. While a weak pound helps exporters, it makes imports more expensive, which in turn can push up inflation.

The BoE's minutes stated that survey data since the referendum result "suggest that some businesses are beginning to delay investment projects and postpone recruitment decisions", while housing market activity is set for "significant weakening". "Taken together, these indicators suggest economic activity is likely to weaken in the near term," they added.

The BoE has already taken steps to calm fears over Brexit's economic fallout when it last week relaxed commercial banks' capital requirements to boost lending to businesses and households.

The move will boost lending by up to £150 billion and reduce banks' regulatory capital buffers by £5.7 billion.

Since Brexit, the BoE has also vowed to pump at least £250 billion into money markets if needed to prevent a damaging credit crunch.

The Treasury may meanwhile decide to expand the so-called Funding for Lending scheme, which provides cheap finance to banks in exchange for increased lending.

Britain's new finance minister Philip Hammond earlier Thursday ruled out an emergency budget in response to economic turbulence triggered by the country's vote.

Hammond told media that a budget would not be submitted before the British autumn, adding that London's key financial sector must retain access to the EU single market following Brexit.

Ahead of last month's EU referendum, Hammond's predecessor George Osborne suggested an emergency budget would be required in the event of a Brexit vote because of the risk of recession.

However, he quickly ruled out such an event, and has now quit the government following Hammond's appointment.

New Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday appointed Hammond to replace Osborne.