As expected, the European Central Bank raised its inflation forecasts and hiked benchmark rates for a tenth consecutive time this morning – but also signalled its monetary tightening trajectory had reached a plateau, suggesting that further rate increases were unlikely.
In the statement setting out the decision, the Bank said updated staff projections show inflation averaging 5.6 percent in 2023, 3.2 percent in 2024, and 2.1 in 2025, with both 2023 and 2024 forecasts revised up in response to a rise in energy prices. Growth expectations were pushed sharply slower in response to a tightening in financial conditions and weakening demand, both coming as the Bank’s “past interest rate increases continue to be transmitted forcefully”. The euro area economy is seen growing just 0.7 percent in 2023, 1 percent next year, and 1.5 percent in 2025.
In a key passage, the central bank said it “considers that the key ECB interest rates have reached levels that, maintained for a sufficiently long duration, will make a substantial contribution to the timely return of inflation to the target. The Governing Council’s future decisions will ensure that the key ECB interest rates will be set at sufficiently restrictive levels for as long as necessary” – language that suggests officials do not expect to raise rates again in this cycle, but that they intend to hold them at current levels for a prolonged period of time. An obligatory caveat was attached however, with policymakers pledging to maintain a “data-dependent” approach at coming meetings.
Unless President Lagarde turns overtly hawkish in the press conference, we think markets will interpret the decision as a “dovish hike” that ultimately sends the euro lower. The common currency is selling off as we go to pixels, and euro area yields are coming under pressure.
Separately, ex-automobile US retail sales smashed projections (and our expectations), rising 0.6 percent in August, while “control group” sales – which reduce the impact of higher gasoline prices – posted a more modest 0.1-percent gain. The dollar is surging as yields climb and November rate hike bets are solidified.