* ECB interest rates seen on hold until Q4 2011
* Economists tip Axel Weber to succeed ECB President Trichet
* But Weber's bond-buying critique may have dented prospects
By Andy Bruce
LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The euro zone's uneven economic
recovery will force the European Central Bank to keep interest
rates on hold until the fourth quarter of next year while it
supports weaker members, a Reuters poll of 80 economists showed.
They also said Bundesbank President Axel Weber remains the
most likely choice to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as ECB
president next year. But Weber's sharp public critique two weeks
ago of the effectiveness of the bank's bond purchase programme
appears to have dented his chances.
While severe budget austerity measures will likely curb
growth in the euro zone's strongest economies in coming months,
some of the so-called peripheral members of the 16-nation
currency bloc have struggled to generate robust economic growth.
The median of the poll forecasts showed interest rates on
hold at a record low 1.0 percent until the fourth quarter of
next year, when they are expected to rise to 1.25 percent.
They also expected the ECB to hike rates by 25 basis points
in both the first and second quarters of 2012, unchanged from
the last poll, and saw no chance of a rate hike resulting from
the ECB's November meeting.
"Given the ongoing problems in the peripheries and now that
the euro is appreciating once again, the risks are that the ECB
leave rates on hold for longer than expected," said Azad Zangana
The euro hit an 8-1/2 month high above $1.41 two
weeks ago as firm expectations that the Federal Reserve will
next week announce the start of a fresh round of quantitative
easing (QE) depressed the dollar.
The possibility of more QE from the Bank of England also
sent sterling down near a seven-month low on Monday
against the euro, whose strength partially reflects the ECB's
reluctance to boost growth by expanding its money base.
Indeed, on Tuesday ECB governing council member Guy Quaden
was quoted as saying the euro's level was not out of line with
Respondents gave a median 25 percent chance of a rate hike
"The ECB has little other choice than to gear its monetary
policy to the benefit of the weakest links, rather than the EU
average," said Peter Vanden Houte from ING.
"One has to bear in mind that the peripheral countries will
only be able to bring their budget deficits down if there is
sufficient economic growth in the future."
Flash euro zone purchasing managers indexes (PMIs), seen as
a good timely gauge of the private sector economy, last week
showed a strong performance among German companies in October
but slowing growth in France. [ID:nLDE69K1CV]
In Italy they showed only a modest rate of expansion, while
the services sectors of Ireland and Spain contracted, according
to the final PMI data for September. [ID:nN05205649]
Thirty-three out of the 50 economists who answered an extra
question about who would be the next ECB president tipped Axel
Weber as the most likely candidate to replace Jean-Claude
Trichet, whose term ends next October.
But that was a smaller majority than the 40 out of 45 seen
in a September 29 poll.
Weber earlier said earlier this month that the ECB's
government bond-buying programme had not worked and should be
scrapped -- an opinion that put him at odds with several of his
ECB peers including Trichet. [ID:nLDE69O0LA]
Consequently, Italy's Mario Draghi received 12 votes in the
latest poll compared with just four last time, while ECB
colleagues Juergen Stark, Erkki Liikanen and Yves Mersch gained
one vote each, as did Klaus Regling, head of the European
Financial Stability Facility.
(For a PDF of the results, see [ECB/PDF])
(For a factbox of the poll, see [ID:nLDE69Q1AR])
(Polling by Bangalore Polling Unit, Analysis by Ruby Cherian,
Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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