European Central Bank leaves base interest rates unchanged

ECB to keep taps open as economic outlook uncertain

Business ECB to keep taps open as economic outlook uncertain FILE

In its carefully-weighed policy statements, the central bank has long warned of risks threatening the eurozone recovery.

People needed to be patient and confident that stronger growth would feed into higher productivity and wages, he said.

The ECB kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday, with the main refinancing rate left unchanged at 0%, the rate on bank overnight deposits kept at -0.40%, while the rate on the marginal lending facility, or emergency overnight borrowing rate for banks, stayed at 0.25%.

Most observers predict the bank's 60-billion-euro ($67.4 billion) monthly bond purchases will continue and interest rates will remain at historic lows.

"It was not about what the European Central Bank said but what it didn't say", said Carsten Brzeski of ING.

Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council confirms that the net asset purchases, at the current monthly pace of €60 billion, are meant to run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim.

That came after the European Union statistics agency Eurostat earlier revised up its estimate of first quarter growth to its fastest rate in two years, saying the economy of the 19-country euro zone expanded by 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter and by 1.9 percent year-on-year.

Inflation on the other hand was now seen lower over that same time horizon, rising by 1.5% in 2017 (instead of 1.7%), 1.3% in 2018 (instead of 1.6%) and by 1.6% in 2019 (instead of 1.7%). As for a potential taper announcement in September, Draghi said they didn't discuss it but that is still 3 months away and they will have to discuss it because the current plan is still to end QE in December even though that won't happen.

Evidence is piling up that growth in the eurozone has kicked into a higher gear and the region is recovering from the Great Recession and the ensuing crisis over high debt that pushed some eurozone countries, notably Greece, to the brink of bankruptcy.

All members of the eurozone and the European Union were in growth during the first quarter - with the United Kingdom, at 0.2 per cent, posting the weakest expansion.

Draghi conceded that recent data suggest "a stronger momentum in the euro area economy, which is projected to expand at a somewhat faster pace than previously expected". The euro EURUSD, -0.3465% slumped during ECB President Draghi's news conference, putting more emphasis on a deteriorating inflation outlook.

Draghi said the central bank would remain poised to extend its accommodative monetary policy if necessary. It pays for the purchases with newly created money. "More jobs than anywhere else in the world, I think, certainly more than in the United States". The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) inflation was 1.4% during May, down from 1.9% in April.

The inflation forecast is revised downward amid lower oil prices.

Mr Draghi's continued focus on getting inflation up has so far cooled investors on the single currency, with the 2017 inflation forecast cut on Thursday to 1.5 per cent from the previous 1.7 per cent forecast back in March, and the 2018 forecast cut to 1.3 per cent from 1.6 per cent.

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