Governors of central banks, leading academics, economics and finance experts, journalists from across Europe gathered in Sintra, Portugal, to participate in the eighth edition of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) annual forum. The event, titled “Macroeconomic stabilisation in a volatile inflation environment” prominently featured statements by ECB President Christine Lagarde on the persistence of inflation.
In her speech, Lagarde urged the European Central Bank to maintain high-interest rates in order to prevent prices from exceeding the established target due to labour market tensions and a significant increase in wages in the Eurozone. Her statements were reported by major European newspapers.
According to Lagarde, the ECB has made “significant progress” in combating high inflation but emphasized that victory cannot yet be declared. The Financial Times reported the key points expressed by Lagarde, who explained that “the initial phase of inflation, where companies passed on the increase in energy and commodity prices to consumers, is diminishing”. However, a second phase driven by rising labour costs has emerged, with predictions of a 14% wage increase in the Eurozone by 2025.
With unemployment reaching its historic low of 6.5% in April, workers are demanding higher wages to compensate for the loss of purchasing power. “This threatens to create a vicious cycle between wages and prices that the central bank must avoid”, as reported by the Associated Press. Lagarde emphasized that workers are trying to recover losses through sustained wage increases, which is pushing up other measures of underlying inflation.
Francesco Lippi, professor of economics and finance at Luiss University, also contributed to the debate, speaking on the panel entitled Assessing the costs of inflation. Inflation and misallocation in New Keynesian models. Professor Lippi provided an important perspective on the topic and the propagation of inflation. According to his analysis, when shocks of such magnitude occur, as seen in 2021 and 2022 due to rising energy prices, inflation spreads rapidly. This has significant political implications, as it means that a significant increase in gas prices, for example, as experienced by numerous European companies, will lead to an acceleration of inflation concentrated within a short period compared to forecasts. However, the analysis suggests that if inflation is higher than initial estimates, it will also slow down more than initially expected. The research was developed by Professor Lippi at Luiss university, which he described as a very stimulating academic environment.
The line that Lagarde insists on, however, is a firm stance: ‘Monetary policymakers,’ said the ECB number one, ‘must address this dynamic head-on, to ensure that it does not lead to a self-fulfilling spiral fuelled by a disengagement from inflation expectations’.
Lagarde made it clear that the bank will try to discourage ‘expectations of too rapid a policy reversal’ and will keep rates high for as long as necessary.