The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday raised interest rates by 50 basis points (0.5 percentage points) and therefore brought its deposit rates back to zero from -0.5%. The hike was a surprise move as economists had anticipated a smaller hike of 25 basis points.
The ECB, the central bank of the 19 nations that share the euro currency, increased interest rates for the first time in 11 years, ending the six-year era of the negative interest rate policy (NIRP). Now, the ECB’s deposit rate is at 0%, the main refinancing operations rate stands at 0.5%, and the marginal lending facility is 0.75%.
The ECB signalled more rate hikes ahead as part of efforts to control rampant inflation in the eurozone. The Frankfurt-based central bank’s inflation target is 2%. In June, inflation stood at a record high of 8.6%.
In a statement on Thursday, the ECB said the hike is part of longstanding efforts to prevent inflation from spreading more broadly to European goods and services, “The Governing Council judged that it is appropriate to take a larger first step on its policy rate normalization path than signalled at its previous meeting.”
The central banker further mentioned that the hike “will support the return of inflation to the Governing Council’s medium-term target by strengthening the anchoring of inflation expectations and by ensuring that demand conditions adjust to deliver its inflation target in the medium term.”
ECB President Christine Lagarde justified the larger hike: “Inflation continues to be undesirably high and is expected to remain above our target for some time. The latest data indicate a slowdown in growth, clouding the outlook for the second half of 2022 and beyond.”
In the past, The ECB had signalled it would be raising rates in July and September as consumer prices continue soaring. But it was unclear how the central bank would initiate the move.
Since 2014, the central bank has kept rates at historic lows in negative territory as it dealt with the region’s sovereign debt crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECB’s rate hike comes one month after the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) lifted interest rates by 0.75 percentage points, the third hike this year and the largest one since 1994. The Fed’s move aims to tame the fastest inflation pace in over 40 years.
Since the ECB announced a bigger-than-expected interest rate rise at 12:15 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), Bitcoin, the flagship cryptocurrency, has held its price steady at around $22,700. Bitcoin is currently trading at $23,125.74 at the time of writing at 20:29 EAT (Eastern Africa Time). The euro (EUR), the official currency of 19 member states of the European Union, rose 0.7% relative to the U.S. dollar from $1.0198 to $1.0257.
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