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April Digest | Navigating the waves of change: the ECB's interest rate strategy amidst inflation
Charlotte Guounot
April 8, 2024

The backdrop of rising inflation

To combat inflation triggered by the war in Ukraine, post-Covid recovery, and value chain disruptions since Q2 2022, the European Central Bank (ECB) has significantly increased its three key interest rates and curtailed excess liquidity. This led to a tightening of credit, higher financing costs, and subsequently, a reduction in demand, inflation, and growth.

ECB's aggressive rate hikes

In a span of 15 months, the ECB escalated interest rates by 4.5 points, pushing the key rate in the eurozone from -0.50% in August 2022 to 4% in September 2023. A similar trend was observed in the United States with the Federal Reserve's substantial rate increases.

Eurozone's protective measures

Amid these financial adjustments, Euro Member States implemented unprecedented measures to mitigate the inflationary impact on household purchasing power and corporate margins, comparing significantly to historical crises of 1929 or 1970.

The ECB's decision-making horizon

For the ECB to consider reducing rates, its Council members must be convinced that core inflation will stabilize at 2%, despite potential rate cuts that could enhance demand and growth. This decision relies heavily on macroeconomic data, emphasizing the ECB's data-driven approach to inflation and economic indicators like growth, employment, and wage trends.

The anticipated inflation data

With the next Governing Council meeting scheduled for April 11, 2024, early inflation estimates for March 2024 were keenly awaited to discern the potential for an imminent rate cut. Encouraging initial data from France, Spain, and Germany suggest easing inflation, hinting at the ECB's possible rate adjustment in the near future.

Analysts' expectations and the future path

While most analysts anticipate the ECB to recognize the positive inflation trends in April's meeting, a rate cut might be postponed until June. Remarks from Villeroy de Galhau highlight the delayed impact of monetary policy adjustments on the economy, though a minority speculate an earlier rate cut. Market indicators predict a 1% rate reduction by the end of 2024, pointing towards a cautiously optimistic economic outlook for the eurozone.

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