Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday 25 May 2022.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty pictures
The European Central Bank is expected to confirm on Thursday its intention to raise interest rates next month, as interest rate settlers meet in Amsterdam for their first political meeting outside Frankfurt since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
While inflation for the euro area with 1[ads1]9 members reached another record high in May, a rise in interest rates would not come until July, as the ECB will first have to formally close its net asset purchases, according to the forecast.
The key question is how aggressive the shift will be in the coming months – some analysts have moved their estimates for a larger increase by September.
“A handful of board members are already open to a 50 bp increase,” said Mark Wall, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, in a research note.
“We believe the ECB continues to underestimate inflation, and we expect support for a 50bp increase to increase as the summer progresses.”
The ECB will also publish new staff estimates for growth and inflation this week – and market participants are likely to monitor inflation projections for 2024 closely, as this constitutes the ECB’s medium-term price target.
The ECB is also expected to downgrade its growth forecasts and revise up its inflation estimates, with the 2024 inflation rate likely to reach 2%, the ECB’s medium-term target.
Sustained high inflation is the biggest concern for decision-makers in the ECB’s Governing Council.
“Inflation is not only too high, but also too broad,” Francois Villeroy de Galhau, France’s central bank governor, told a Paris conference last week. “This requires a normalization of monetary policy – I say normalization and not austerity.”
While inflation, and the fight against it, is of course the core mandate of the ECB, the topic of fragmentation risk will most likely be addressed this week as well.
The bond markets have already reacted to the end of asset purchases and reassessed the various risks associated with different countries in the eurozone.
As a result, the gap between German and Italian bonds has widened. The 10-year spread was over 200 basis points on Monday, compared to less than 140 basis points at the beginning of the year
“Fragmentation complicates the ECB’s life. This is not to say that these considerations will override whatever the inflation picture suggests when it comes to policy tightening,” said Dirk Schumacher, an ECB monitor with Natixis, in a research note.
“But it is still an important implicit argument for gradualism,” he added.