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Title: ECB poised for another big rate hike as inflation soars

Sep 08, 2022 02:31AM ET

By: AnalysisWatch

The European Central Bank will raise interest rates again on Thursday to fight runaway inflation and, with a big move and a record one under consideration, the only question is by how much.

Concerned that sky-high inflation is getting increasingly entrenched, policymakers are scrambling to keep a lid on the bloc's most damaging bout of price growth in nearly half a century as it eats up household savings and weighs on business output.

Ultimately, the choice will be between a 50 and a 75 basis point increase in the zero percent deposit rate, with expectations now leaning towards a bigger increase but not with full conviction.

The larger move would be the biggest ever increase of the ECB's benchmark rate, but regardless of the outcome the bank's direction of travel will be clear.

More hikes are factored in for coming months as price pressures are consistently exceeding even the most pessimistic forecasts.

Buoyed by hawkish comments from conservative policymakers, markets now see a more than 80% chance of a 75 basis point hike. A slim majority of economists polled by Reuters are also predicting the larger increase.

The decision also encapsulates a policy dilemma.

Updates to ECB forecasts are certain to show sharply higher inflation but significantly weaker economic growth.

Sky-high energy prices will sap purchasing power and almost certainly plunge the bloc into a recession that could be exacerbated by an aggressive ECB, especially with borrowing costs rising for governments as they try to help those most affected.

A big hike after a decade of ultra-low rates also goes against the ECB's guidance for gradualism and several policymakers, including board member Fabio Panetta and Greek central bank chief Yannis Stournaras, have made the case for a smaller move.

Central banks are also powerless against inflation driven by supply-side disruptions, and rate hikes now will affect the economy years down the road, when inflation is abating on its own.

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