HSBC has a warning for those expecting the European Central Bank to start tightening monetary policy: the institution has missed its opportunity.
Recent data “have been dismal,” Simon Wells, an economist at HSBC in London, said in a note to clients. The latest figures on Tuesday showed Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy, only narrowly dodged a recession. France is slowing and Italy has stagnated. The only major economy bucking the trend is Spain, Wells said.
“We think the narrow window in which the ECB could have lifted its key interest rate has closed. The case for a rate rise on inflation grounds has been weak for a while and with growth slowing, jittery markets and low inflation, we see ECB rates on hold until at least the end of 2020,” he said.
HSBC joins a growing list of economists and investors who predict President Mario Draghi won’t be able to lift rates from record lows before his term ends in October. German private bank Bankhaus Lampe argued on Monday that if the ECB doesn’t tighten late this year then there’s no reason to believe it’ll be able to do so in 2020 either.
The ECB, which will next set policy on January 24, expects to keep interest rates at record levels at least through the summer. Draghi may address the situation on Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In a statement in the morning he urged governments to pursue reforms to realise the full benefits of the single currency. Wells said that’s another opportunity foregone.
“The window for structural reform in the ‘good times’ has closed. In our view, there is more cause for concern over the longer term. The opportunity to make hay while the sun was shining has been missed.”