The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday held interest rates at record lows and made no changes to its step-by-step stimulus exit plan, even as pressure grows to tackle the eurozone's soaring inflation.
As expected, the ECB kept the rate on its main refinancing operations at zero, its marginal lending facility at 0.25% and its bank deposit rate at minus 0.5%, according to a statement.
ECB President Christine Lagarde has the job of explaining why the bank isn’t raising interest rates despite record high inflation as it left its key economic stimulus programs in place.
The bank for the 19 countries that use the euro is moving more slowly than the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) and the Bank of England (BoE) in withdrawing support as economies rebound from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fed has signaled it could start raising interest rates in March, while the BoE hiked rates on Thursday and in December. Lagarde has said a hike from her bank is unlikely this year.
Europe’s record 5.1% inflation in January raises questions about when the bank will raise rates, the typical antidote to inflation that’s too high. The bank says much of the recent inflation is from temporary factors such as high oil and gas and clogged supply chains and should ease this year.
Annual inflation in the eurozone came in at 5.1% on Wednesday, the highest since 1997 when recordkeeping began ahead of the euro being established in 1999. Inflation is way above the bank’s goal of 2% that is considered best for the economy. And the usual resolution for high consumer prices is raising interest rates that influence borrowing costs.