The Bank of England has left interest rates on hold again at 4.75%, in a widely-predicted move.
The Bank remains concerned about personal debt levels in the UK
Rates went up five times from November 2003 - as the bank sought to cool the housing market and consumer debt - but have remained unchanged since August.
Recent data has indicated a slowdown in manufacturing and consumer spending, as well as in mortgage approvals.
And retail sales disappointed over Christmas, with analysts putting the drop down to less consumer confidence.
Rising interest rates and the accompanying slowdown in the housing market have knocked consumers' optimism, causing a sharp fall in demand for expensive goods, according to a report earlier this week from the British Retail Consortium.
The BRC said Britain's retailers had endured their worst Christmas in a decade.
"Today's no change decision is correct," said David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
"But, if there are clear signs that the economy slows, the MPC should be ready to take quick corrective action and cut rates.
"Dismal reports from the retail trade about Christmas sales are worrying, if they indicate a more general weakening in consumer spending."
Mr Frost added: "The housing market outlook remains highly uncertain.
"It is widely accepted that, if house prices start falling more sharply, the risks facing the economy will worsen considerably."
CBI chief economist Ian McCafferty said the economy had "slowed in recent months in response to rate rises" but that it was difficult to gauge from the Christmas period the likely pace of activity through the summer.
"The Bank is having to juggle the emergence of inflationary pressures, driven by a tight labour market and buoyant commodity prices, against the risk of an over-abrupt slowdown in consumer activity," he said.
"Interest rates are likely to remain on hold for some time."
On Thursday there was more gloomy news on the manufacturing front, as the Office for National (ONS) statistics revealed British manufacturing output unexpectedly fell in November - for the fifth month in the past six.
The ONS said manufacturing output dropped 0.1% in November, matching a similar unrevised fall in October and confounding economists' expectations of a 0.3% rise.
Manufacturers' organisation, the EEF, said it expected the hold in interest rates to continue in the near future.
It also said there was evidence that manufacturers' confidence may be waning as the outlook for the world economy becomes more uncertain.
'Bank must be ready'
"So far the evidence suggests that last year's rate increases have helped to rebalance the economy without damaging the recovery in manufacturing," said EEF chief economist, Steve Radley.
"However, should the business outlook start to deteriorate, the Bank should stand ready to cut rates."
Some economists have predicted rates will drop later in the year, although others feel the Bank may still think there is a need for a rise to 5% before that happens.
The Bank remains concerned about the long-term risks posed by personal debt - which is rising at 15% a year - if economic conditions worsen.