European Central Bank to decide this week on stimulus

The European Central Bank will decide this week if it should dare to dial down emergency stimulus while the pandemic still menaces the euro-zone economy.

The threat posed by the delta variant of the coronavirus could yet embolden policy makers on Thursday to keep up the “significantly higher” pace of bond purchases they adopted earlier this year.

But advanced vaccination rates, a robust rebound and inflation that is already at the fastest in a decade are all reasons to consider a downward shift in gears.

Until now, the ECB has insisted that any surge in consumer prices is destined to be temporary, allowing officials led by President Christine Lagarde to keep crisis stimulus flowing.

That contrasts with global counterparts such as the Federal Reserve, where policy makers may consider a move to scale back asset purchases in November or December, after Friday’s disappointing jobs report made action of this kind unlikely this month.

With inflation now at 3 percent in the euro region, ECB officials are diverging more on the outlook for consumer prices.

Greek central bank chief Yannis Stournaras suggested to Bloomberg last week that officials shouldn’t overreact, advising “caution.”

But in a hint of arguments to come, his Dutch colleague Klaas Knot said that the goal of the ECB’s crisis bond-buying program, of limiting the damage to inflation inflicted by the coronavirus, is almost achieved.

He favors a more restrictive approach to stimulus after the measure’s scheduled end in March.

Such remarks suggest that whatever officials determine about bond-buying for the coming months, this week’s decision is only the first of several likely skirmishes on the future of ECB monetary policy.  (Bloomberg)

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