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27 April 2018, 12:16 | Cedric Leonard
ECB keeps massive stimulus scheme in place | Bangkok Post: business
The Governing Council, led by ECBPresidentMario Draghi, left the key interest rates unchanged after the policy session in Frankfurt, in line with economists' expectations.
Unpaid loans at large euro zone banks totalled 759 billion euros at the end of September, having fallen from 920 billion euros only a year earlier thanks to strong economic growth and ECB pressure on banks to offload them.
Draghi stressed that overall growth is expected to remain solid and broad based, and ample liquidity is necessary to bring the inflation back to 2 percent target.
Draghi warned that rising protectionism was starting to pose a "more prominent" risk to the eurozone outlook after US President Donald Trump fanned fears of a global trade war.
The ECB is trying to push up inflation from the current annual rate of 1.3 percent toward its goal of just under 2 percent, considered best for the economy.
Reuters reported on Monday that after suffering a political backlash, the ECB is considering shelving planned rules that would have forced banks to set aside more money against their stock of unpaid loans.
This suggests the euro zone's economic downturn was more severe than earlier thought and makes the recovery even more protracted.
They said a decision on future moves would likely be communicated in June or July, with September only an outside possibility as it was too close to the tentative end date of asset buys.
In the press conference Mario Draghi announced the governing council's message was for "caution tempered by an unchanged confidence that inflation will converge to our inflation target over the medium-term but that confidence is conditional on an accommodative monetary policy framework being in place".
No changes are expected in interest rates or monetary stimulus settings.
Business confidence in the 19-country bloc has already taken a knock, most notably in export-focused Germany. Some, however, have started to flag risks of a delay.
A major concern for the European Central Bank is that nationalist rhetoric from the US could decrease the value of the dollar, despite the Federal Reserve gearing up to raise interest rates several times in 2018. The currency is up 1.5 per cent against the dollar this year and just 0.3 per cent higher on a trade-weighted basis.
A stronger single currency would also most likely cap already weak inflation in the euro zone - a persistent headache for the European Central Bank. Although Draghi had an air of confidence, he stated that policymakers remained "cautious" regarding the fluctuating data from the first part of the year.
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