The European Central Bank raised interest rates again today and signalled it was keen to start shrinking its bloated balance sheet, taking another big step in tightening policy to fight off a historic surge in inflation.
The following are extracts taken from an RTE.ie article on October 27th, 2022.
RTE.ie(2022) outlines the latest action taken by the ECB to curb inflation and it looks like they will not stop with this latest rate hike:
Worried that rapid price growth is becoming entrenched, the ECB is raising borrowing costs at the fastest pace on record.Further hikes are almost certain as unwinding a decade’s worth of stimulus will take it well into next year and beyond. In a series of complex moves, the ECB raised its deposit rate by 75 basis points to 1.5%, as expected, taking the total increase to 2 percentage points over three meetings.
Until July, ECB rates had been in negative territory for eight years. With today’s decision, the ECB also increased the rate on its Main Refinancing Operation – which affects mortgage rates – to 2% from 1.25% and that on its daily Marginal Lending Facility to 2.25% from 1.5%.The ECB also cut a key subsidy to banks but made no hint about plans to start winding down its bond holdings after hoovering up trillions of euros of debt issued by euro zone governments since 2015.
“The Governing Council took today’s decision, and expects to raise interest rates further, to ensure the timely return of inflation to its 2% medium-term inflation target,” the ECB said in a statement. Markets expect the deposit rate to hit 2% in December, then peak at around 3% some time in 2023, although the excessively volatile outlook makes this timeline prone to changes.
RTE.ie (2022) believes the ECB is likely to raise borrowing costs further , informing of steps it has taken toward shrinking its €8.8 trillion balance sheet, a move that and may act as a sort of disguised rate hike:
While inflation is high and broadening, the overall picture may be more balanced than in the past as spot energy prices are falling, a looming recession will dampen price pressures, and there are no signs of a wage-price spiral.
In a step that may be fought by commercial banks, the ECB curbed the subsidy it provides to such lenders through €2.1 trillion worth of ultra-cheap three-year loans called Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations, or TLTROs.
“In view of the unexpected and extraordinary rise in inflation, it needs to be recalibrated to ensure that it is consistent with the broader monetary policy normalisation process and to reinforce the transmission of policy rate increases to bank lending conditions,” it said.
The ECB said that the interest rate on TLTRO operations will be indexed to the average applicable key ECB interest rates in the future. The aim of the change is to encourage early repayment of the loans. The ECB, however, did not provide further pricing details and said these would be made available later this afternoon.
There is another change in ECB policy according to RTE.e(2022), where the ECB has said that minimum reserves would be remunerated at the deposit rate, rather than the main rate, which is 50 basis point higher:
Having borrowed at zero or even negative rates at a time when the ECB’s main worry was persistently low inflation, banks can now simply park TLTRO cash with the ECB and enjoy a risk-free return that rises with each deposit rate hike.
This is politically contentious in itself, but an abundance of liquidity is also keeping money market rates depressed and preventing the ECB’s rate hikes from being fully passed through via the banks to businesses and households. The biggest chunk of TLTRO loans, worth around €1.5 trillion, expire next June. Today’s changes may encourage banks to repay them early – as soon as December – shrinking the ECB’s balance sheet in the process.
The bank confirmed its guidance on reinvestments of bonds maturing in its bond buying schemes, confounding some expectations for a small change that would hint at a wind down of the Asset Purchase Programme next year.
The European Central Bank cannot predict how fast or how much further interest rates will rise, ECB chief Christine Lagarde said today, adding that speculation about where the euro zone’s neutral rate might be was “not necessarily helpful”. Asked at a news conference if future hikes would be more gradual, Lagarde reiterated that the ECB had made significant progress in withdrawing monetary accommodation but had more ground to cover.
“We have acknowledged more rate (hikes) are in the pipeline but at which pace and to which level I cannot tell you,” she said. Lagarde has long said that the ECB’s first job is to normalise policy and reach a point where it is no longer stimulating the economy.
But a growing number of policymakers now argue for a more restrictive policy to cool inflationary pressures. The neutral rate, which neither boosts nor slows growth, is undefined, but policymakers tend to see it in the 1.5% to 2% range, suggesting that the ECB’s deposit rate is now around the lower end of this range following today’s rate hikes.
Policymakers had “a slight discussion (about) how not necessarily helpful this evasive neutral rate is,” Lagarde told the news conference.
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RTE.ie (2022) ‘ECB increases interest rates by 0.75% again’, RTE, 27 October. Dublin. Available at : https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2022/1026/1331626-ecb-increase-rate/
(Accessed 27 October 2022).