European Central Bank Hikes Rates Despite Market Mayhem, Pledges Support If Needed
- The European Central Bank on Thursday (March 16, 2023) announced a further rate hike of 50 basis points, signalling it is ready to supply liquidity to banks if needed, amid recent turmoil in the banking sector.
- The ECB had signalled for several weeks that it would be raising rates again at its March meeting, as inflation across the 20-member region remains sharply above the targeted level. In February, preliminary data showed headline inflation of 8.5%, well above the central bank’s target of 2%.
- Some market players questioned whether President Christine Lagarde would still go ahead with the move, given recent shocks in the banking sector. Credit Suisse shares tumbled by as much as 30% in Wednesday intraday trade, and the whole banking sector ended the Wednesday session down by about 7%.
- This latest move brings the bank’s main rate to 3%. It was in negative territory before July last year.
- Initial pressures on the banking sector emerged last week when U.S. authorities deemed Silicon Valley Bank insolvent. The event threw international subsidiaries of the bank into collapse and raised concerns about whether central banks are increasing rates at too aggressive of a pace. Goldman Sachs quickly adjusted its rate expectations for the Federal Reserve, due to meet next week — the bank now anticipates a 25 basis point increase after previously forecasting a 50 basis point hike.
- European officials were keen to stress that the situation in Europe is different from the one in the United States. Overall, there is less deposit concentration — SVB was an important lender to the tech and health-care sectors — deposit flows seem stable, and European banks are well capitalized since the regulatory transformation that followed the global financial crisis.
- Equity action Thursday showed some relief across the banking sector after Credit Suisse said it will borrow up to $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank, the country’s central bank.