ECB Keeps Rates on Hold

The European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged at record lows and said that monetary stimulus, the expansion of the balance sheet and the outlook for price developments will be only reassess early next year. The bank has also sharply lowered its economic growth forecasts, and stressed that the risks remain on the "downside".

Extracts from the Introductory statement to the press conference by Mario Draghi, President of the ECB:

Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, and in line with our forward guidance, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. As regards our non-standard monetary policy measures, we have started purchasing covered bonds and asset-backed securities. These purchase programmes will last for at least two years. Next week, we will conduct the second targeted longer-term refinancing operation, to be followed by six further operations until June 2016. Taken together, our measures will have a sizeable impact on our balance sheet, which is intended to move towards the dimensions it had at the beginning of 2012.

In the coming months, our measures will further ease the monetary policy stance more broadly, support our forward guidance on the key ECB interest rates and reinforce the fact that there are significant and increasing differences in the monetary policy cycle between major advanced economies. However, the latest euro area macroeconomic projections indicate lower inflation, accompanied by weaker real GDP growth and subdued monetary dynamics.

In this context, early next year the Governing Council will reassess the monetary stimulus achieved, the expansion of the balance sheet and the outlook for price developments. We will also evaluate the broader impact of recent oil price developments on medium-term inflation trends in the euro area. Should it become necessary to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation, the Governing Council remains unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional instruments within its mandate. This would imply altering early next year the size, pace and composition of our measures. 

Real GDP in the euro area rose by 0.2%, quarter on quarter, in the third quarter of this year. This was in line with earlier indications of a weakening in the euro area’s growth momentum, leading to a downward revision of the outlook for euro area real GDP growth in the most recent forecasts. The latest data and survey evidence up to November confirm this picture of a weaker growth profile in the period ahead.

These elements are reflected in the December 2014 Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections for the euro area, which foresee annual real GDP increasing by 0.8% in 2014, 1.0% in 2015 and 1.5% in 2016. Compared with the September 2014 ECB staff macroeconomic projections, the projections for real GDP growth have been revised substantially downwards. Downward revisions were made to the projections for both domestic demand and net exports.

12/4/2014 2:11:20 PM