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Rate cut in June likely. KBD Economics Desk reports ….

Eurozone’s Declining Loan Demand and Inflation Trends Amplify Calls for ECB Rate Cut

In the shadow of a significant downturn in loan demand from companies within the Eurozone, the European Central Bank (ECB) is under mounting pressure to reduce interest rates, a sentiment that has gained momentum following the ECB’s latest meeting on April 11. The quarterly survey from the ECB highlighted an unexpected and “substantial” fall in firms’ demand for loans, contradicting earlier predictions of a market recovery. This decrease in borrowing, closely linked to a dip in investment initiatives, suggests the Eurozone economy is on the brink of prolonged stagnation.

However, the beginning of the year marked a potential turning point, with indications of credit availability beginning to stabilise after years of tightening. This shift is partially attributed to banks reducing mortgage costs for the first time in over two years, offering a glimmer of hope for economic recovery.

The ECB’s recent meeting brought to light the nuanced balance between inflation control and economic growth. With inflation now nudging close to the ECB’s 2% target and bank lending stalling, the ECB has subtly signaled its openness to a rate cut in the near future. “If the Governing Council’s updated assessment of the inflation outlook, the dynamics of underlying inflation and the strength of monetary policy transmission were to further increase its confidence that inflation is converging to the target in a sustained manner, it would be appropriate to reduce the current level of monetary policy restriction,” the ECB said, hinting at a pivotal shift in its monetary policy stance.

This sentiment is echoed across the board, with ECB policymakers, including those typically inclined towards hawkish policies, rallying for a rate cut in their June 6 meeting, contingent on the moderation of key indicators such as wage growth and underlying inflation. However, this decision is shadowed by uncertainties tied to whether the Federal Reserve will align its rate cuts, as U.S. inflation remains persistently above its target.

ECB President Christine Lagarde, expected to delve into the central bank’s June strategy and the prospects of a July rate reduction in her forthcoming news conference, finds herself at a critical juncture. The anticipation surrounding the ECB’s policy direction reflects a broader economic landscape, where the delicate balance between fostering growth and controlling inflation is paramount. The forthcoming decisions by the ECB, particularly in its June meeting, are set to redefine the Eurozone’s monetary policy framework, addressing the pressing need for economic revitalisation amidst fluctuating loan demands and evolving inflationary pressures.

The decline in corporate loan demand, as found in the survey, is perceived by some analysts as a pivotal factor that could bolster the likelihood of rate reductions in June and possibly in subsequent ECB meetings throughout the year. Reflecting on the survey’s implications, industry experts underscore the overly restrictive nature of the current monetary policy in the Eurozone. They argue that the tangible impact on investment prospects makes a series of rate cuts in 2024 increasingly plausible. Furthermore, with the backdrop of a fragile economic framework and diminishing inflation, there’s a growing consensus on the necessity for the ECB to adopt a more accommodative stance, starting with a rate reduction in June.