Thursday, December 4, 2014

ECB maintains rates, no statement on QE

    The European Central Bank (ECB) maintained its benchmark interest rate at 0.05 percent, as widely expected, along with its deposit rate at minus 0.20 percent, and made no further comments on any new initiatives to boost economic growth and inflation.
    In its usual brief statement following a meeting of the ECB's governing council, the ECB said its president, Mario Draghi, would comment on the "considerations underlying these decisions" at a press conference at 2:30 pm Central European Time today.
    Draghi is scheduled to present an update of the ECB's economic forecasts.
    Despite continued weak economic data, economists had not expected the ECB to expand its asset purchase program today to include sovereign bonds but wait until early next year.
    Last month Draghi said a unanimous ECB council had tasked the bank staff with preparing for further measures, triggering speculation that the ECB would expand its asset purchase program today.
    But a few days later Vitor Constancio, ECB vice president, said the central bank would be better able to assess the need for stronger stimulus in the first quarter, pushing back market expectations to the ECB meeting in March.
    The ECB's council decided in a split decision in September to cut its rate to technically zero and embark on the purchase of asset-backed securities and covered bonds to expand its balance sheet.
   This followed a rate cut in June and the launch of longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs) to boost bank lending to households and businesses.

    In November headline inflation in the euro zone eased to 0.3 percent from 0.4 percent, still well below the ECB's target of inflation below but close to 2.0 percent.
    Growth in Gross Domestic Product expanded by only 0.2 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter for annual growth of 0.8 percent, steady from the second quarter's growth rate. The unemployment rate was unchanged in October at 11.5 percent for the fifth consecutive month.
    In September ECB staff forecast GDP averaging 0.9 percent this year, a downward revision from the June forecast of 1.0 percent, then 1.6 percent in 2015, down from 1.7 percent, and 1.9 percent in 2016, up from 1.8 percent.
    Inflation was seen averaging 0.6 percent in 2014, down form 0.7 percent forecast in June, 1.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from June, 1.4 percent in 2016, also unchanged from the June forecast.



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