Negative rates not needed in U.S. for now: ECB's Constancio

Negative rates not needed in U.S. for now: ECB's Constancio

Brendan McDermid

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (Reuters) - Negative deposit rates are not required as a monetary fix for the United States at the moment, in contrast with the euro zone, which is struggling with deflation risk, a top European Central Bank official said on Wednesday.

The U.S. economy, while far from robust, has been growing at a steady pace, and has seen some improvement in price growth since hitting a post-crisis low earlier this year.

On the other hand, the euro zone has booked back-to-back months of negative headline inflation, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said.

"We are in a totally different universe," Constancio said in a response to a question after speaking at a conference here. "It doesn't justify for the U.S. to do this right now."

Constancio spoke about monetary policy in a tough global economy at a conference sponsored by the Levy Economics Institute.

Traders are speculating whether the ECB would consider more stimulus after cutting deposit rates for euro zone banks deeper into negative territory and expanding its bond purchase program earlier this year.

The ECB's cuts in interest rates have helped improve euro zone banks' profitability the past few years, Constancio said, adding that the drop in borrowing costs has spurred lending and the overall economy.

Adoption of negative interest rates by the ECB and Bank of Japan have stoked talk about whether the Federal Reserve might embark on the same path.

For now, the ECB has not sought out other unconventional tools to help the euro zone economy.

When asked about "helicopter money," or sending money directly to citizens, Constancio said such a move "wouldn't make a difference."

A storm of protest erupted in Germany after ECB President Mario Draghi last month described the idea of "helicopter money" as a "very interesting", if unexamined, concept.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)