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CBI moves to calm virus worries - but ECB stalls

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Director-general of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Director-general of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Director-general of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A day after the US Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, the Central Bank of Ireland moved to confirm that it was ready to take action to offset the impact of coronavirus on the economy.

It is not clear what the Central Bank here could do in response to any economic shock, beyond reducing the counter-cyclical buffer that it requires banks to hold - which is currently set at 1pc - as interest rates are set in Frankfurt.

Any rate cut in the eurozone could hit the profits of AIB and Bank of Ireland.

"We are closely monitoring developments related to Covid-19 and continue to assess their impact on the economy and the financial system as more information becomes available," the Bank said yesterday.

While the Fed moved decisively to protect the US economy, it is far from clear that the European Central Bank (ECB) will oblige before its regular meeting next week, even though growth here is far more fragile than in the US and the eurozone is way more dependent on trade, and therefore exposed to greater risks from China.

"The ECB opted against a co-ordinated move with the Fed, signalling that policymakers would prefer to wait and see until next week's official meeting, and then try to steer markets with words rather than action," ING's top international economist James Knightley wrote in a report.

According to analysis from Goodbody, a 25 basis point rate cut in the UK and a 10 basis point cut by the ECB would cost Bank of Ireland €40m and hit AIB by €35m.

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