Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank speaks at an event. Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images The European Central Bank on Thursday confirmed expectations of a 50 basis point interest rate increase, taking its key rate to 2.5%. In a statement, it pledged to “stay the course in raising interest rates significantly at a steady pace” and, in unusually firm language, said it intended to hike by another 50 basis points in March. It said keeping rates at restrictive levels would control price rises by dampening demand and keeping inflation expectations under constrained. Decisions at future meetings will be data-dependent, it added. The move follows four hikes in 2022 which brought euro zone rates out of negative territory for the first time since 2014. Euro zone inflation fell for the third straight month in January, flash figures published Wednesday showed, but headline inflation remained high at 8.5%. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was flat at 5.2%.Attention now turns to Thursday’s speech and press conference by Lagarde, which begins at 2:45 pm Frankfurt time, for an indication of the central bank’s latest outlook on the economy and further details of its plans for hiking and quantitative tightening.In December, it announced that from March it would begin to reduce its 5 trillion euro ($5.49 trillion) balance sheet by 15 billion euros per month on average until the end of June 2023.On Thursday, it said that in line with current practice it would continue partial reinvestments of its maturing debt.”The remaining reinvestment amounts will be allocated proportionally to the share of redemptions across each constituent program of the APP (Asset Purchase Program) and, under the public sector purchase program (PSPP), to the share of redemptions of each jurisdiction and across national and supranational issuers,” its statement said. This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.