LONDON (Reuters) - Underlying inflation in the euro zone remains on a steady upward path but the European Central Bank is open to adjusting its interest rate guidance if the outlook changes, Irish central bank chief Philip Lane said on Friday.
With inflation finally moving higher, the ECB has been curbing stimulus for months and plans to end its 2.6 trillion euro bond purchase scheme in December, hoping that it has done enough to push prices back to its target of almost 2 percent.
But underlying inflation, or prices excluding volatile food and fuel prices, has yet to show the type of upward move policymakers predicted and September data published on Friday missed expectations, even as wages are moving decisively higher and employment is at a record high.
“We’re fairly sure that core (inflation) is on an upward path, again not spectacular but steady enough,” Lane, who sits on the ECB’s Governing Council, told a conference. “The support of more jobs, more labor income driving consumption is very strong.”
The ECB plans to keep rates steady through next summer and has said it is comfortable with market expectations for an interest rate rise sometime in the final quarter of 2019.
“Remember the statement is saying at least through the summer,” said Lane, often mentioned as a candidate to become the ECB’s next chief economist. “It is not committing to any particular date for lift-off, so there is a clear commitment there, which is that it’s open to revisions depending on where the data come in.”
Lane argued that once labor market slack is absorbed, and the jobs market gets hot, inflation is likely to accelerate rather than rise gradually.
Reporting by William Schomberg and Helen Reid; Writing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Heavens