The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday (July 21) went for an aggressive benchmark deposit rate hike. This is a first since 2011 and has brought an end to the era of negative interest rates in the eurozone. The half point hike is bigger than expected. It has come amid soaring inflation and looming energy crisis in the wake of conflict in Ukraine.
The ECB said its new “assessment of inflation risks” justified taking “a larger first step on its policy rate normalisation path than signalled at its previous meeting” in June when policymakers shared their intent to raise rates by a more modest 25 basis points or a quarter of a percentage point.
In June, inflation in the eurozone hit 8.6 per cent. This was the highest ever level and it was well above ECB’s target of two per cent.
The ECB also unveiled the first details of a new crisis tool to fight bond market stress in parts of the eurozone.
The instrument is a response to recent increases in the borrowing costs for governments in more highly indebted, usually southern eurozone members, such as Italy.
Dubbed the “Transmission Protection Instrument (TPI)”, the targeted bond-buying scheme “can be activated to counter unwarranted, disorderly market dynamics that pose a serious threat to the transmission of monetary policy across the euro area,” the ECB said in a statement.
The rate hike has lifted ECB’s deposit facility from negative to zero.
The rate on its main refinancing operations climbs to 0.50 percent and on its marginal lending facility to 0.75 percent.
With prices taking off, the euro weak against the dollar and other central banks racing ahead with bigger hikes, the ECB was under pressure to think about making a bigger move at the meeting on Thursday.
Future rate hikes “will be appropriate”, the ECB said, as it looks to catch up with the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England which both
started raising rates earlier and more aggressively.
(With inputs from agencies)
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