No ECB rate rise before end of bond-buying

Frankfurt am Main: The European Central Bank will not raise interest rates before ending its mass bond-buying programme, president Mario Draghi (pictured) said on Thursday, quashing speculation that a mounting euro zone recovery would prompt him to change course.
“We are not yet at a stage where inflation dynamics can be self-sustaining without monetary policy support,” Draghi told a Frankfurt conference.
The ECB has set interest rates at historic lows and buys tens of billions of euros in bonds per month, hoping to pump cash through the financial system and boost growth, powering inflation towards its target of just below 2.0 per cent.
Interest rates are not set to rise until “well after” the end of the bond-buying scheme, set to continue at its present 60-billion-euros ($64 billion) per month level until December this year, Draghi has repeatedly said.
Some observers have speculated that the ECB might change tack and raise interest rates in response to increasing growth and inflation, which outpaced its target in February before falling back in March.
Savers complain that low interest rates combined with rising inflation sap their cash piles, while banks are struggling to make profits as they face negative rates on their deposits — meaning they pay to park cash at the central bank. “Our various policy instruments are deliberately chained together,” Draghi said.
When the bank decides to withdraw its support to the euro zone, policymakers will follow its planned sequence of first ending bond-buying before raising rates, he went on.
The central bank chief said he was confident a budding recovery in the 19-nation single currency area would continue, pointing to “a virtuous cycle between rising consumption, employment growth, and labour income,” increasing spending combined with falling indebtedness, and broad-based improvement across the euro zone. But “despite these signs of progress, it is too early to declare success,” he went on.
“Geo-political risks” continue to threaten the recovery, Draghi said, while inflation is still dependent on the central bank’s massive interventions in the economy.
Draghi also hit back at critics of low interest rates, calling them “powerful in terms of easing financial conditions” while “the negative side effects have so far been limited”.
Meanwhile, the head of Germany’s central bank said on Wednesday the euro zone economy is robust enough for the European Central Bank to consider ending its current easy money policies.
“Could it soon be time to take our foot off the gas- In my opinion, it’s getting closer,” Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann told the latest edition of the German weekly Die Zeit.
Weidmann is known to have repeatedly voted against the ECB’s mass bond-buying scheme, known as quantitative easing (QE), under which it buys tens of billions of euros per month of government and corporate debt.
The purchases are designed to pump cash through the financial system and into the real economy, boosting growth and pushing inflation towards the central bank’s target of close to but below 2.0 per cent. “I see bond purchases as a pure emergency tool, for times when there is a threat of deflation,” Weidmann said.
“I already thought deflation was unlikely in the past. Given the good prospects for the economy, it’s become even less likely.”
A spate of good news has encouraged euro zone observers in recent months, with unemployment falling to new post-crisis lows and inflation outpacing the ECB target in February before falling back again in March. — AFP