Just as the Bank of England has an inflation target of 2%, so does the ECB. UK inflation has been significantly above its target rate for many months and so has the eurozone’s inflation rate, which is up to 2.8% in April from its previous level of 2.7% the previous month. The increase in the general price level has been fuelled by rising costs of raw materials and high energy prices. Whilst interest rates in the UK have remained at 0.5% in a bid to stimulate economic growth, the ECB has increased interest rates by a quarter point to 1.25% and the latest inflation data may be further pressure for further rises. However, any increase in rates will put more pressure on countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal who are facing tough austerity measures and may put their recoveries in jeopardy.
The ECB has been optimistic about growth and it may need to be with this and possibly subsequent interest rate hikes, as they are likely to depress aggregate demand. Furthermore, European Commission’s ‘economic sentiment’ indicator has fallen to 106.2, which is the weakest since November. Eurozone unemployment remains at just under 10%, oil prices remain high and this has depressed optimism across the eurozone countries. The euro, meanwhile, continues to strengthen (up 12% against the dollar over the past year) and this has enhanced the fragile state of affairs in those countries suffering from tough austerity measures. An economist at ING has said:
“The combination of high oil prices, a strong euro, and fiscal and monetary tightening has started to dent the economic mood in the euro zone.”
Eurozone inflation rises again Telegraph, Emma Rowley (29/4/11)
Eurozone inflation rate rises to 2.8% BBC News (29/4/11)
Eurozone inflation jumps to 2.8% Financial Times, Ralph Atkins (29/4/11)
Euro zone inflation rises, points to higher ECB rates Reuters, Jan Strupczewski (29/4/11)
Eurozone inflation further above target at 2.8pct The Associated Press (29/4/11)
- What is the relationship between interest rates and inflation. Why have the ECB and the Bank of England reacted differently to rising inflation?
- Is the inflation currently being experienced in the Eurozone cost-push or demand-pull? Illustrate your answer with the help of a diagram.
- What is the relationship between interest rates and the exchange rate?
- Why is there some concern about the ‘economic sentiment’ indicator in the Eurozone?
- What is the relationship between interest rates and economic growth? Explain the process by which a change in interest rates could affect AD and then economic growth and employment.
- Why is this interest rate rise (and possible further rises) likely to hurt countries, such as Ireland and Greece more than other countries within the Eurozone?