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FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank will tighten policy if inflation is seen staying above its target, but such a scenario appears less likely for now, Philip Lane, the bank's chief economist, told a Lithuanian newspaper Verslo inios.

Inflation hit 5% last month, the highest on record for the euro area. However, the ECB sees it dropping back under the 2% target in the fourth quarter, even if some policymakers see this as an overly optimistic scenario.

"I think we are always clear that we're guided by our intentions to deliver an inflation rate of 2% over the medium term," Lane said.

"So we will adjust all of our policies whether that's asset purchases, the targeted lending programme, our interest rates to deliver that goal."

Inflation outlook highly uncertain, ECB's Holzmann tells paper

Under such a scenario, the first decision would be to end asset purchases and only after that would the bank consider raising interest rates, Lane added.

"I find it less likely to think about a scenario where inflation is persistently, significantly above 2%, which would require a serious tightening," he said, adding that wage growth remained unconcerning.

Lane also said the ECB was increasingly relaxed about the economic impact of COVID-19's Omicron variant.

"It is not turning out to be a factor that will influence the activity levels for the year, it's more the activity levels for a few weeks ... I think there's less concern about Omicron than we had in December," he said.

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