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Tracker holders to be disappointed as ECB 'won't be cutting rates'

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Under pressure to intervene: ECB president Christine Lagarde. Photo: REUTERS

Under pressure to intervene: ECB president Christine Lagarde. Photo: REUTERS

REUTERS

Under pressure to intervene: ECB president Christine Lagarde. Photo: REUTERS

Tracker mortgage holders look set to be disappointed as the European Central Bank (ECB) is not expected to further cut its key lending rate.

This is despite an emergency cut in UK interest rates yesterday and a recent reduction in US rates, in a bid to tackle the economic fall-out from the coronavirus crisis.

The ECB's key lending rate is already at zero. However, some economists had been expecting it to go to minus 0.1pc after today's meeting.

Such a move would save a family with a €300,000 mortgage on a typical tracker rate of 1pc over the ECB rate some €160 a year.

But it would cost the two main banks here - AIB and Bank of Ireland - €125m, according to banking analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers Eamonn Hughes.

Four out of 10 mortgages are on a tracker rate, which number around 300,000.

Tracker rates are set at a fixed margin above the ECB rate, so only move as the ECB rate rises or falls.

Most are set at a margin of 1pc over the ECB rate. This means tracker holders pay just 1pc as the key lending rate in the eurozone is zero.

The ECB is under huge pressure to announce dramatic interventions after its meeting today, as there are fears of a major economic shock from the spread of Covid-19.

ECB president Christine Lagarde told European Union leaders on a conference call this week that without co-ordinated action, Europe "will see a scenario that will remind many of us of the 2008 great financial crisis".

With the right response, the shock will likely prove temporary, she added.

Ms Lagarde said ECB policymakers are looking at all tools for their meeting this week, particularly ones to provide "super-cheap" funding and ensure liquidity and credit don't dry up, Bloomberg reported.

However, the ECB is not expected to change its key lending rate when it meets today. It may instead drop its deposit rate again. It is already at minus 0.5pc.

This is an attempt to impose a cost on banks for holding their cash, in a bid to get them to lend more.

Before the virus outbreak the ECB had been repeatedly calling on European governments to increase public spending, fearing an economic slowdown across the eurozone.

Irish Independent