Market news

8 April 2021

ECB’s ‘reaction function’ clarified in March minutes - ING

Carsten Brzeski, the Global Head of Macro for ING Research, notes that the ECB’s last news conference left many market participants a bit puzzled about the ECB’s exact reaction function, but the just-released minutes of the meeting shed more light on what the bank's thinking.

"The ECB’s last news conference left many market participants a little puzzled about the exact shape of the ECB’s reaction function. There were simply too many ‘holistics’, ‘multifaceted’, ‘downstreams’ and ‘upstreams’ rather than a clear description of how the ECB would react to higher inflation and higher bond yields. Fortunately, several speeches and some blog entries since the March press conference have clarified the ECB’s current thinking. In our view, a recent speech by ECB board member Isabel Schnabel has become the best compass we could find to see where the ECB’s needle is currently pointing to."

"In fact, what Schnabel told us and what the minutes of the March meeting also reflect was that the ECB accepts higher longer-term nominal rates as a result of higher inflation expectations. So, as long as real rates remain stable, everything is fine. Any increase in real rates will only be tolerated by the ECB if it reflects improved growth prospects. Consequently, the ECB’s current reaction function can be summarised as: so long as bond yields rise for good reasons, the ECB is relaxed. If they start rising for the wrong reasons, the ECB will intervene. This is no real yield curve control but rather a soft and moving cap on yields."

"In the end, the debate or even fear of surging bond yields was a bit of a storm in a teacup. Or put differently, financial markets quickly understood that the acceleration of eurozone inflation was - and will be - mainly the result of one-off factors. This kind of inflation is rather deflationary and definitely no reason for the ECB to react with any premature tightening. On the contrary, the ECB has made clear that it will look through any temporary increase in inflation and would not tolerate an unwarranted tightening of financing conditions."

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