The European Central Bank held its benchmark refinancing rate at 0 percent on January 24th and reiterated it expects key interest rates to remain at record low levels at least through the summer of 2019. The central bank brought to an end its €2.6 trillion bond purchase scheme last month, but said it will keep reinvesting cash from maturing bonds for an extended period of time.
The deposit facility rate and the marginal lending facility rate were also left unchanged at -0.4 percent and 0.25 percent, respectively.
Excerpts from the ECB Introductory Statement:
The incoming information has continued to be weaker than expected on account of softer external demand and some country and sector-specific factors. The persistence of uncertainties in particular relating to geopolitical factors and the threat of protectionism is weighing on economic sentiment. At the same time, supportive financing conditions, favourable labour market dynamics and rising wage growth continue to underpin the euro area expansion and gradually rising inflation pressures. This supports our confidence in the continued sustained convergence of inflation to levels that are below, but close to, 2% over the medium term. Significant monetary policy stimulus remains essential to support the further build-up of domestic price pressures and headline inflation developments over the medium term. This will be provided by our forward guidance on the key ECB interest rates, reinforced by the reinvestments of the sizeable stock of acquired assets. In any event, the Governing Council stands ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation continues to move towards the Governing Council’s inflation aim in a sustained manner.
Let me now explain our assessment in greater detail, starting with the economic analysis. Euro area real GDP increased by 0.2%, quarter on quarter, in the third quarter of 2018, following growth of 0.4% in the previous two quarters. Incoming data have continued to be weaker than expected as a result of a slowdown in external demand compounded by some country and sector-specific factors. While the impact of some of these factors is expected to fade, the near-term growth momentum is likely to be weaker than previously anticipated. Looking ahead, the euro area expansion will continue to be supported by favourable financing conditions, further employment gains and rising wages, lower energy prices, and the ongoing – albeit somewhat slower – expansion in global activity.
The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook have moved to the downside on account of the persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors and the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility.
Euro area annual HICP inflation declined to 1.6% in December 2018, from 1.9% in November, reflecting mainly lower energy price inflation. On the basis of current futures prices for oil, headline inflation is likely to decline further over the coming months. Measures of underlying inflation remain generally muted, but labour cost pressures are continuing to strengthen and broaden amid high levels of capacity utilisation and tightening labour markets. Looking ahead, underlying inflation is expected to increase over the medium term, supported by our monetary policy measures, the ongoing economic expansion and rising wage growth.
1/24/2019 1:53:00 PM