ECB’s Nowotny eyes September for more clear-cut ‘tapering’ of stimulus

The European Central Bank could start a more defined ‘tapering’ of its stimulus programme next September, one of its policymakers said on Friday, even though it was likely to struggle meeting its inflation target for years.

The ECB announced last week that from January it would reduce its bond-buying programme to 30 billion euros (£26.6 billion) a month from its current 60 billion euros.

However, inflation in the euro zone remains stubbornly below the central bank’s target of just under 2 percent, which is the main reason it has been cautious about reducing the two-year-old stimulus programme.

“This goal of 2 percent or 1.9 is something that will not be easily reached in the years to come,” said Ewald Nowotny, a long-serving member of the ECB’s Governing Council.

Speaking at an event organised by the policy think tank OMFIF, Nowotny added that unemployment levels were “still very high” despite recent declines.

The ECB argues that its plans to reduce the pace of its bond buying is not a U.S. Fed-style “tapering” — something that rattled global markets when it was floated in 2013 — as the euro zone’s is still an “open-ended” arrangement.

That could change though if the economy continues to improve. It is set to grow at its fastest rate since 2011 this year.

“If things go well as we think in the economy, there are good reasons then (from next September) to start to taper,” he said.

He would also like the bank to give itself more leeway with its inflation target, though he stressed it was unlikely to happen at the current time.

Sweden’s central bank is currently discussing given itself a band 1 percent plus or minus its headline 2 percent target.

“This is a moving target so I think economically it makes much more sense,” Nowotny later told Reuters. “But from the view of the ECB they see this as too dangerous to enter such a discussion so they are fiercely against it.”
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Karin Strohecker and Marc Jones, editing by Larry King/William Maclean)