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No Action, Just Hawkish Talk at ECB

The European Central Bank's hawks must be aching to hike rates, but they will likely sit on their hands again and leave rates at 4 percent despite inflation rising to 3.6 percent in May.

The inflation rate is at a historic high and uncomfortable for the bank's "below but close to" 2 percent target. But the ECB is unlikely to deliver a shock to the markets by raising rates, analysts told CNBC.com.

"They will stay very hawkish…but in terms of actually pulling the trigger, I don't think they will do it," Peter Rosenstreich, chief market analyst, Advanced Currency Markets, told CNBC.com.

And this despite the fact that gross domestic product in the 15 countries using the euro rose 0.8 percent quarter-on-quarter according to Eurostat, which on Tuesday revised upwards its previous estimate of 0.7 percent.

But hawkish comments are likely to grow stronger.

"I think there's quite a strong group in the ECB that is advocating raising rates," Stefan Schenider, euro zone analyst at Deutsche bank, told CNBC.com. "I guess for the time being this is not the majority view."

The inflation figure was a "negative surprise" for the markets but, with crop harvests approaching in the Northern hemisphere and with oil prices probably cooling a bit, euro-zone inflation may have peaked, Erste Bank euro zone analyst Veronika Lammer said.

"We still have a high-risk premium on money markets," Lammer added.

No More Volatility, Please!

Money market rates are still tight, Schneider said, while uncertainties about further developments in the financial markets are still in the limelight and the bank looks very closely to tensions in the credit markets.

"The last thing they want to do is add volatility to the markets," he said. "Everyone in the ECB knows that they can do with interest rates what they want, they cannot, in the short term, reduce food or oil prices."

Most analysts expect more hawkish talk and no action, at least until the end of this year.

"My colleagues in the ECB Governing Council - like Juergen Stark and Axel Weber -- and I are concerned about the current high prices," ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said recently.

"I have already said on behalf of the ECB Governing Council: We have to take care that the current price shocks in oil and food prices do not lead to increases in other goods and inflated wage agreements, which in turn will trigger inflation and a wave of wage increases," Trichet said.

But signs of weakness abound in the euro zone despite much-better-than-expected economic growth figures for the first quarter. German retail sales fell surprisingly for the second month in a row in April while gloomy news keeps coming from France, Spain and Italy.

"By the end of the year we'll have more weakness than the ECB expects," Schneider said.

Contact Europe: Economy

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