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ECB council concerned about slowness of vaccination in euro area

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Members of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council have expressed concern that the slowness of Covid-19 vaccinations in the euro area could delay the Union’s economic recovery, according to their latest minutes. meeting.

According to a summary of the discussion that took place on March 11, Governing Council members highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the euro area’s near-term growth prospects due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Reference was made to the slowness of vaccination compared to other regions of the world,” according to the minutes released Thursday. Board members questioned whether the restrictions related to the pandemic would be relaxed as early as the second quarter and expected “the weakness in activity to continue well into the second quarter and beyond.”

At the same time, they felt that the risks surrounding the euro area’s medium-term growth outlook “had become more balanced”, thanks to better prospects for the global economy, which were boosted by strong policy measures. fiscal stimulus and progress of vaccination campaigns.

Carsten Brzeski, Global Head of Macro at ING, said the meeting report “illustrates that there must have been a lively debate. . . some members of the ECB reporting more positive growth factors and others more negative factors ”.

The minutes recalled that the American stimulus plan, which was not taken into account in the ECB’s March projection, constituted a “upside risk” – that is to say a boost. additional potential – for the global economic outlook and the euro area. However, the impact of President Joe Biden’s plan and the implications for the euro-dollar exchange rate “were difficult to quantify,” it was noted.

Frederik Ducrozet, strategist at Pictet Wealth Management, said the minutes also indicated “disagreement within the Governing Council over the risks posed by higher bond yields and the appropriate reaction function”.

Isabel Schnabel, member of the ECB’s executive board, reportedly said at the meeting that a rise in sovereign yields “must be pronounced and persistent” to have a significant impact on broader financing conditions.

Brzeski said the minutes suggested that “as long as real rates remain stable, all is well.” But even higher real returns – after factoring in inflation expectations – “were not necessarily of concern and should not trigger policy intervention if they reflected higher growth prospects rather than real-term premiums. higher ”, according to the minutes.

Some concern has also been expressed that “the true situation of businesses and households” in the euro area would come to light once government support schemes are phased out, in particular corporate bankruptcies and their impact. on balance sheets.

“There was still a risk that the unemployment rate would turn out to be higher than expected” if jobs could not be protected once the job retention programs expired, he added.

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