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ECB didn’t budge, but Bank of England might

Category : Business

Over the years, the Bank has tended to act more speedily than the ECB, with a bias towards pre-emptive action

Worried, but not yet worried enough to act. That was the message from the European Central Bank on Wednesday as it contemplated the state of a eurozone sinking ever deeper into an economic, banking and political crisis. Although there were some calling for fresh action to boost activity, the ECB’s view is that it has done enough for now and the onus is on member state governments to tackle the crisis by accelerating structural reform.

There would be some logic to this approach were the ECB to stick to it through thick and thin. But the message was blunted by the clear hint that policy will be loosened in the event that economic conditions take a turn for the worse in the 17 nations that use the single currency. They will, which is why financial markets are betting on the ECB cutting its key interest rate to 0.75% next month.

Expect a rather more proactive approach from the Bank of England on Thursday. Over the past month, the state of the UK economy has worsened markedly. Growth has been revised down, forward-looking surveys have been dire, and the euro zone has gone from bad to worse. Inflation has, at last, started to head back towards its 2% target, removing one of the main impediments to action.

Over the years, the Bank has tended to act more speedily than the ECB, with a bias towards pre-emptive action, so not too much should be read into the fact that only one MPC member voted for more stimulus last month. On past form, the committee will decide it is not worth waiting for a possible Greek exit from the euro or a Spanish banking collapse, and instead will opt for another £50bn of quantitative easing. A cut in bank rate to 0.25%, given the dire state of affairs both at home and abroad, would be no surprise, either.

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