According to its President Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank (ECB) will mobilise all its forces to break the wave of inflation in the euro area. "And we will do whatever it takes to bring inflation back to 2 percent," the Frenchwoman told Spanish media group Vocento in an interview published on Sunday.
It reaffirmed its signal to raise interest rates by half a percentage point in the middle of the month. This is "very, very likely". Most recently, the inflation rate had fallen only minimally to 8.5 percent. At the same time, the ECB's so-called core rate, from which volatile food and energy prices are dropped, is a cause for concern, thus opening up the view of underlying inflation.
In February, it rose for the third month in a row – to an all-time high of 5.6 percent. "In the short term, core inflation will be high," Lagarde warned. The ECB's deposit rate, which is relevant on the financial markets, is currently still 2.5 percent.
Progress, but not yet a victory
The head of the ECB had already signalled an interest rate hike of 0.5 percentage points for the meeting on 16 March and now sees herself confirmed in the project by the inflation trend. Bundesbank chief Joachim Nagel and other ECB leaders have not ruled out further interest rate hikes for the period after the March meeting in order to bring inflation closer to the ECB's target of 2 percent.
Lagarde left open in the interview how far the ECB will drive the interest rate up: The central bank has more work ahead of it in the fight against inflation and cannot yet declare victory, even if progress has been made. "My main concern is inflation," stressed the eurozone's top monetary watchdog, adding: "We don't want to strangle the economy. That is not our goal. Our goal is to tame inflation."
She is optimistic that price pressure will ease in the course of the year. But core inflation will prove to be "tougher" in the short term. At the same time, it expects growth prospects to brighten after stagnation at the end of 2022.
The central bank will present new projections on growth and inflation at its meeting in the middle of the month. In December, their economists had estimated an increase in economic output in the euro area of 0.5 percent for the current year and 2024.1 percent for 9. At the same time, they expected price pressure to increase for years to come: this year, the inflation rate is expected to be 6.3 percent and in 2024, according to estimates, 3.4 percent.