Business World

Wednesday 16 October 2019

ECB chiefs say eurozone rates could be cut again if needed

Chief economist Philip Lane
Chief economist Philip Lane "is ready to present further measures to us".

Leo Laikola, Kati Pohjanpalo and Radoslav Tomek

The European Central Bank (ECB) is willing to cut interest rates and resume bond purchases if necessary, two policymakers signalled yesterday.

Bank of Finland Governor Olli Rehn and his Slovakian counterpart Peter Kazimir both gave press conferences at which they said the ECB is ready to combat any further slowdown that threatens to prevent them restoring price stability.

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Market-based inflation expectations for the eurozone tumbled to record lows last week, despite the central bank extending its pledge to keep rates at record lows.

"The Governing Council is determined to act and stands ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate," Mr Rehn (pictured), who is a contender to succeed ECB President Mario Draghi in November, said in Helsinki.

He also said the institution's economic analysis at its policy meeting last week showed the external risks to the euro area won't fade in the near term.

"The global economy and global politics are surrounded by protracted uncertainty, reflecting, in particular, the expanded and heightened trade war in particular between the United States and China.

"This trade war is unlikely to subside any time soon, due to the underlying struggle between the two countries over technological and economic supremacy," he said.

The Finnish former EU Economy Commissioner has repeatedly called for a review of the strategy for achieving price stability.

Yesterday, he said any rate cuts could be accompanied by "possible mitigating measures" - a reference to the debate over whether some bank reserves should be exempt from the negative deposit rate.

Banks have complained that their profitability is being squeezed, and Mr Draghi has said he'll consider whether that could force them to pare back lending.

Mr Rehn also said that "the Governing Council may, should economic developments so require, strengthen its forward guidance and its linkage to the achievement of the price-stability objective".

Meanwhile, Mr Kazimir, who was holding his first press conference as the new Slovak governor, acknowledged that measures of sentiment show the economic mood is worsening while noting that hard data has been less downbeat.

"We don't see any reason why we would speak about recession or deflation," he said in Bratislava.

Chief economist Philip Lane "is ready to present further measures to us", Mr Kazimir added.

"If needed, the ECB is also ready to identify this ammunition."

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

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