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European Central Bank raises rates by 50 basis points, pledges further hike in March

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. On Feb. 2, Europe’s top monetary guardians decide on new interest rate steps at their regular council meeting.
Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

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

ECB President Christine Lagarde struck a hawkish tone at the last meeting in December, stressing interest rates would still need to rise “significantly at a steady pace” to bring inflation to its 2% medium-term target.

This led markets to price in 50 basis point hikes for February and March, with no rate cuts this year.

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.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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