European Central Bank Finally Cuts Interest Rates

On June 6th 2024 the ECB (European Central Bank) announced a cut in interest rates of 25 basis points to the deposit rate lowering it from 4.00% to 3.75% as headline inflation is now just above its 2% target having fallen from 10% in 2022. Inflation has largely come down due to lower fuel costs and supply chains, which have now become normalised after a few post Covid-19 twists and turns. 

However, the ECB advised that inflation is not yet beaten as the service sector remains sticky and as a result the ECB announced that “despite the progress over recent quarters, domestic price pressures remain strong as wage growth is elevated, and inflation is likely to stay above target well into next year.” The decision to lower interest rates was nearly unanimous with the only negative vote coming from Robert Holzman, Governor of the Central Bank of Austria.

The President of the ECB Christine Lagarde hedged her bets when answering questions regarding future rate cuts. She is quoted as saying “ Are we moving into a dialling back phase? I would not volunteer that. Is the dialling back process underway? There’s a strong likelihood”. A number of experts have described her message as somewhat confusing, especially as she added “We are not pre-committing to a particular rate path”. Experts and analysts alike suggest that another rate cut in July is now unlikely, with financial markets now focusing on September 2024. 

Last month the President Lagarde declared inflation under control, however with the lack of a clear path on rate cuts being offered by the ECB the string of recent data has pointed the finger at enduring price pressures. This alone would suggest that the ECB is going to be, as with other central banks, data driven prompting cautions when talking about future interest rate cuts. Together with a quarterly outlook published by the ECB forecasts for inflation will average 2.2% for 2025 up from an earlier forecast of 2%.

Elsewhere the Bank of Canada reduced its benchmark interest rate but both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are fighting tougher price pressures, and are only expected to follow suit in the coming months. Financial markets are waiting for some clear signs from both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve as to when they expect to cut rates.