ECB Officials Warn of Inflation Risk Despite Extending Stimulus

Robert Holzmann, governor of Austria's central bank, departs from a hotel following interviews in Helsinki, Finland. (Photographer: Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg)

ECB Officials Warn of Inflation Risk Despite Extending Stimulus

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Some European Central Bank officials issued warnings about higher rates of inflation, just a day after agreeing to keep monetary stimulus flowing at an accelerated pace through the summer.

Austrian Governor Robert Holzmann went so far as to say that if euro-area price growth exceeds 3%, then policy makers would need to consider acting. He said the possibility can’t be excluded that temporarily higher prices would drive up wage pressures.

ECB Officials Warn of Inflation Risk Despite Extending Stimulus

“On inflation, I think that’s giving every governor at the ECB, but also beyond, something to think about,” Holzmann told reporters on Friday. “If inflation crosses 3% -- which is where we already are in Austria and elsewhere -- that would probably mean a rethink of the strategy.”

Holzmann added that “what exactly the response would be I can’t say at this moment.” Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said in a separate release on Friday that Germany could see price growth temporarily hit 4% toward the end of the year. Dutch Governor Klaas Knot said there are “upside risks slipping into” the inflation calculus.

The Governing Council agreed at this week’s meeting to renew their pledge to run their pandemic bond-buying program at a heightened pace.

Some policy makers at that meeting raised the prospect of upside risks to inflation, officials familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified.

Euro-zone price growth was 2% in May, technically above the ECB’s target of “below, but close to, 2%,” and U.S. prices jumped 5% from a year ago. Yet central bankers in both economies say the impetus is driven by temporary factors. The ECB announced new forecasts on Thursday that see inflation averaging 1.9% this year before subsiding in 2022 and 2023.

The Bundesbank said in its updated projections for Germany that current price swings in some areas are being driven by a return to higher rates of VAT, new carbon-emissions certificates, and a steep rise in energy and food costs -- the impact of which will likely fade over time.

“I don’t see any reaction in wages as of yet, and that’s always the variable to follow,” Knot said at another event. “But there are some upside risks,” including companies’ abilities to absorb higher costs.

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