Irish central banker says it's too early for the ECB to discuss future rate hikes

  • Speaking at the sidelines of the ECB Forum in Sintra, Portugal, ECB's Governing Council member Philip Lane said rate hike discussions will take place closer to next summer.
  • ECB President Mario Draghi said Tuesday that "monetary policy in the euro area (will) remain patient, persistent and prudent."

The European Central Bank (ECB) is not yet in a position to discuss its future rate hike path, the governor of the Irish central bank, Philip Lane, told CNBC Tuesday.

The ECB decided last week to put an end to its massive stimulus program this coming December. The bank also indicated that it is unlikely to increase interest rates before the third quarter of 2019. The dovish tone surprised market players, who were hoping to see the first rate hike next June.

As a result, ECB watchers are wondering when exactly the ECB will come forward with its first hike since 2011, and how it will proceed after that.

Lane, who is also a member of the ECB's Governing Council, said it is "too early" to have such discussions.

"We will think about these issues as we get closer to it (next summer)," Lane told CNBC's Annette Weisbach on the sidelines of the ECB Forum currently taking place in Sintra, Portugal.

He added that it's "way too early to have discussions on what comes after that."

Philip Lane, governor of the Irish central bank.
Aidan Crawley | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Philip Lane, governor of the Irish central bank.

The ECB's three main interest rates stand currently at 0, 0.25 and -0.40 percent. In its official statement last Thursday, the ECB wrote that such rates will "remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019 and in any case for as long as necessary."

Lane said that the data is not yet strong enough to warrant a change in interest rate policy before summer 2019.

"Our reading of projections are such that an interest rate change would not be warranted until then," Lane, who has been mentioned as the potential next chief economist of the ECB, said.

He reiterated that all upcoming decisions would be determined by data.

'Downward risk'

The ECB also revised its economic forecasts with inflation now predicted to hit 1.7 percent in 2018, 2019 and 2020. In terms of growth, the expectation is that euro zone gross domestic product (GDP) will be 2.1 percent this year and 1.9 percent next year.

ECB policymaker Jan Smets, who heads Belgium's central bank, told CNBC Tuesday that escalating global tensions clearly constituted a "downward risk" to economic growth worldwide.

"In the euro zone we consider the risks for growth to be balanced, but it's true in the global environmentand due in particular to this trade issue — the risks are more on the downward side and a little bit worrying… Basically, it is not good news," he added.

Speaking at the central bank forum on Tuesday, ECB President Mario Draghi said that longer-term inflation expectations are well-anchored but the economy required "monetary policy in the euro area to remain patient, persistent and prudent."

Draghi warned Tuesday there are three main sources of risk. "The threat of increased global protectionism prompted by the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs by the United States; rising oil prices triggered by geopolitical risks in the Middle East; and the possibility for persistent heightened financial market volatility" — all of which could ultimately cause changes to monetary policy, he said.