ECB’s Lane says ready to start cutting interest rates

May 28, 2024

The European Central Bank is ready to cut interest rates next month but policy must continue to be restrictive this year as wage growth will not normalise until 2026, ECB chief economist Philip Lane told the Financial Times today.

The ECB has all but promised a rate cut for June 6, so the debate has shifted to subsequent moves and markets have dialled back their expectations, betting on just one more cut this year.

“Barring major surprises, at this point in time there is enough in what we see to remove the top level of restriction,” Professor Lane told the FT in an interview published today.

“The best way to frame the debate this year is that we still need to be restrictive all year long,” he added. “But within the zone of restrictiveness we can move down somewhat.”

While Philip Lane made no explicit comment about the July policy meeting, a string of policymakers including fellow board member Isabel Schnabel have already said that a second step should not come quite so soon.

Wage growth is expected to “visibly” decelerate next year and policymakers can then debate normalising policy.

At 4%, the ECB’s deposit rate holds back growth and there is little debate that the first few cuts, at least until 3% but possibly further, merely remove restriction rather than provide stimulus.

“We need to see more progress (on inflation) before we move from maintaining the restrictive phase to thinking about normalisation,” Professsor Lane added.

Philip Lane said ECB policymakers needed to keep rates in restrictive territory this year to ensure that inflation kept easing and did not get stuck above the bank’s target, which “would be very problematic and probably quite painful to eliminate”.

A key wage indicator accelerated last week, spooking some but he said the figure was well anticipated and a slowdown was already in the works.

“Deceleration does not necessarily mean an immediate return to steady state,” Professor Lane said. “This year the adjustment is clearly quite gradual.”

Article Source – ECB’s Lane says ready to start cutting interest rates, FT reports – RTE

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