European Central Bank sees rare annual deficit after 20 years


  • The European Central Bank reported its first annual loss since 2004, totaling 1.3 billion euros, due to high interest rates.
  • To soften the financial blow, the ECB released 6.6 billion euros from its financial risk provisions.
  • Despite expecting further losses, the ECB remains confident in its monetary policy effectiveness.

Thursday brought news that rocked the financial community across Europe: the European Central Bank plunged into its first annual deficit since 2004. This fiscal downturn is largely attributed to significant payouts triggered by the surge in interest rates, with the bank reporting a loss of 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion). This figure could have painted an even bleaker picture had the ECB not opted to dip into its emergency fund, releasing a whopping 6.6 billion euros from its provision for financial risks—a safety net accumulated over numerous years.

The ECB has braced itself for further financial turbulence in the coming years, albeit with a confident assurance that these setbacks will not hinder its capacity to implement effective monetary policies. The institution anticipates a rocky path ahead but remains optimistic about eventually steering back into the realm of sustained profitability.

The Interest Rate Rollercoaster

In attempts to tackle the inflationary pressures exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the geopolitical tensions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ECB embarked on an aggressive interest rate hike. From July 2022 to September 2023, rates were elevated from the doldrums of negative figures to a historic high of 4%.

This increase was not without its casualties, as the bank grappled with escalating interest expenses on its liabilities, which far outpaced the income generated from its assets. The latter remained stagnant due to their fixed rates or extended maturities, culminating in a net interest loss of 7.19 billion euros in 2023—a stark contrast to the 900 million euro income reported in 2022.

Despite the financial crisis, the ECB’s underlying strength is evident through its substantial capital and revaluation accounts, which collectively amounted to 46 billion euros at the end of 2023. Because its finances are strong, the bank has been able to take forward its losses, which will be offset by future profits. For the fiscal year, the bank has also chosen not to distribute its profits to the national central banks of the eurozone.

Uncharted Financial Waters

The ECB’s journey over the past eight years has been characterized by a controversial yet expansive fiscal stimulus policy that significantly inflating its balance sheet. However, in March 2023, the bank took a decisive turn towards quantitative tightening, signaling a new chapter in its monetary policy strategy. This comes at a time when higher interest rates have already pushed several national central banks, including Germany’s Bundesbank and the Swiss National Bank, into the red.

Yet, the implications of these losses extend beyond mere numbers. They serve as a barometer for the central bank’s credibility and can influence its broader actions. Nevertheless, experts like Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, view the ECB’s current predicament as a temporary setback that is unlikely to impact its monetary policy decisions. According to Schmieding, the central bank’s ability to weather financial storms is unparalleled in the economic landscape.

Amidst all of this, the ECB’s Consumer Expectations Survey of January 2024 offers a glimpse into public sentiment. The survey revealed a decrease in the median rate of perceived inflation over the past 12 months to 6.0%, marking a continuous decline for the fourth consecutive month. However, expectations for inflation over the next year have seen a slight uptick to 3.3%. The data shows that consumers are cautiously optimistic, and they expect inflation to stay much lower in the near future than it has been in the past.

The survey also shed light on consumer outlooks regarding income, consumption, and the labor market. Despite the challenging economic environment, expectations for nominal income growth have held steady, and the anticipated unemployment rate shows signs of improvement. Additionally, consumers maintain a hopeful stance on the housing market and access to credit, indicating a resilient consumer base amid uncertain times.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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