ECB raises rates by 50 basis points, pledges further hike in March

The European Central Bank on Thursday confirmed expectations of a 50 basis point interest rate increase, taking its key rate to 2.5%.

In a statement, it pledged to “stay the course in raising interest rates significantly at a steady pace” and, in unusually firm language, said it intended to hike by another 50 basis points in March.

It said keeping rates at restrictive levels would control price rises by dampening demand and keeping inflation expectations under control. Decisions at future meetings will be data-dependent, it added.

The move follows four hikes in 2022 which brought euro zone rates out of negative territory for the first time since 2014.

Euro zone inflation fell for the third straight month in January, flash figures published Wednesday showed, but headline inflation remained high at 8.5%. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was flat at 5.2%.

Attention now turns to Thursday’s speech and press conference by Lagarde, which begins at 2:45 p.m. Frankfurt time, for an indication of the central bank’s latest outlook on the economy and plans for hiking and quantitative tightening.

In December, it announced that from March it would begin to reduce its balance sheet by 15 billion euros ($15.9 billion) per month on average until the end of the second quarter of 2023.

It said further details on the reduction of its asset purchase program (APP) would be released later on Thursday afternoon.