The European Central Bank (ECB) will end its multi-billion net bond purchases on July 1, paving the way for the first interest rate hike in the euro area in eleven years.

The ECB Council decided on Thursday at its external meeting in Amsterdam, as the central bank announced in Frankfurt. The European Central Bank (ECB) intends to raise the key interest rate in the euro area by 0.25 percentage points in July.

This was decided by the Governing Council of the ECB on Thursday at its external meeting in Amsterdam. For the time being, the key interest rate will remain at the record low of zero percent, and banks will continue to have to pay 0.5 percent interest on funds parked at the ECB. ECB President Christine Lagarde had promised to end negative interest rates by the end of September.

At the same time, the ECB Council decided at its external meeting in Amsterdam to end the net bond purchases worth billions on July 1st. In its longer-term monetary policy outlook (“Forward Guidance”), the central bank had declared the end of these purchases to be a prerequisite for an interest rate hike.

In the past few weeks, the pressure on Europe’s currency watchdogs has increased significantly, after years of the ultra-loose course, to change course and curb record high inflation with interest rate hikes. In the euro zone, consumer prices in May 2022 were 8.1 percent higher than in the same month last year. According to preliminary figures, the annual inflation rate in Europe’s largest economy, Germany, jumped to 7.9 percent in May, the highest level in almost 50 years.

The ECB is aiming for medium-term stable prices with an annual inflation rate of 2 percent for the currency area of ​​the 19 countries. Higher inflation rates reduce the purchasing power of consumers because they can then afford less for one euro. For months, inflation has been driven primarily by rising energy prices, which rose sharply again after the Russian attack on Ukraine. Problems in the supply chains are also causing prices to rise.

Before the ECB meeting on Thursday, economists were expecting a series of ECB interest rate hikes in the current year. By the end of the year, the deposit rate could rise to plus 0.5 percent and the main refinancing rate could reach a level of 0.75 percent. Other central banks such as the Federal Reserve in the USA or the Bank of England have already raised their key interest rates several times. However, experience has shown that it will take a while for higher interest rates to reach savers.

Europe’s currency watchdogs had long maintained the assessment that rising inflation was being driven by special factors and was therefore temporary. Now the ECB is trying to walk a tightrope between high inflation and increased risks for the economic recovery from the Corona low due to the Ukraine war.

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