World Economy

Economists Ask ECB to Be More Bolder

Economists Ask ECB to Be More BolderEconomists Ask ECB to Be More Bolder

The European Central Bank will almost certainly announce new stimulus measures at its policy meeting next week, analysts said, as eurozone inflation turned negative and the economic outlook continues to cloud over.

After disappointing financial markets with what were widely to perceive as half-hearted measures in December, ECB chief Mario Draghi will announce bolder policy moves this time round, central bank watchers predicted, AFP reported.

These were most likely to include a further cut in interest rates, an increase in the volume of bonds it buys each month under its so-called quantitative easing and a further extension of that measure beyond its current timeframe of March 2017.

“The ECB has signaled a further loosening of monetary policy at its forthcoming meeting,” said Capital Economics economist Jonathan Loynes.

“And while December’s under-deliverance highlights the risk of another disappointment, the deteriorating economic outlook should persuade the governing council to be bolder this time,” the expert said.

With area-wide inflation back in negative territory—it fell to minus 0.2% in February for the first time in five months—and eurozone growth not expected to pick up any time soon, the case for further stimulus measures is clear, said Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding.

“Amid heightened uncertainty about the world economy, rising political risks in Europe and renewed concerns about the health of the European banking system, financial volatility will likely impair the transmission of the ECB’s current monetary stimulus to the real economy for a while,” Schmieding said.

“To bring the economy back to trend growth nonetheless, the ECB needs to do more.” Capital Economics’ Loynes predicted a cut in the key deposit rate from minus 0.30% to minus 0.5% and an increase in the monthly QE purchases from €60 billion ($66 billion) to €80 billion. The deposit rate is the interest the ECB usually pays banks for the excess liquidity they park with it overnight.

But it has been negative since June 2014, meaning the ECB effectively charges the banks for using the facility in the hope that they will instead lend it out to businesses and companies to get the economy moving.

However, banks complain the currently ultra-low interest rate environment is eroding profits and pushing the deposit further into negative territory could harm them further still.

Commerzbank economist Michael Schubert suggested the ECB might therefore introduce a tiered interest rate scheme to ease the burden on banks, whereby lenders would pay a lower or no penalty rate at all up to a specified amount of excess liquidity.

“A tiered interest rate would probably send a clearer signal, as monetary policy does not only depend on the size of the rate cut, but also on the scale of possible additional action,” Schubert argued.