ECB Holds Rates, Confirms End of QE


The European Central Bank held its benchmark refinancing rate at 0 percent on December 13th and confirmed the end of its €2.6 trillion bond purchase scheme later this month, while it will keep reinvesting cash from maturing bonds for an extended period of time. Policymakers also reiterated they expect key interest rates to remain at record low levels at least through the summer of 2019.

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:

While incoming information has been weaker than expected, reflecting softer external demand but also some country and sector-specific factors, the underlying strength of domestic demand continues to underpin the euro area expansion and gradually rising inflation pressures. This supports our confidence that the sustained convergence of inflation to our aim will proceed and will be maintained even after the end of our net asset purchases. At the same time, uncertainties related to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility remain prominent. Significant monetary policy stimulus is still needed to support the further build-up of domestic price pressures and headline inflation developments over the medium term. Our forward guidance on the key ECB interest rates, reinforced by the reinvestments of the sizeable stock of acquired assets, continues to provide the necessary degree of monetary accommodation for the sustained convergence of inflation to our aim. 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.

This assessment is broadly reflected in the December 2018 Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections for the euro area. These projections foresee annual real GDP increasing by 1.9% in 2018, 1.7% in 2019, 1.7% in 2020 and 1.5% in 2021. Compared with the September 2018 ECB staff macroeconomic projections, the outlook for real GDP growth has been revised slightly down in 2018 and 2019.

The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook can still be assessed as broadly balanced. However, the balance of risks is moving to the downside owing to the persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility.

According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, euro area annual HICP inflation declined to 2.0% in November 2018, from 2.2% in October, reflecting mainly a decline in energy inflation. On the basis of current futures prices for oil, headline inflation is likely to decrease over the coming months. Measures of underlying inflation remain generally muted, but domestic cost pressures are continuing to strengthen and broaden amid high levels of capacity utilisation and tightening labour markets, which is pushing up wage growth. 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.

This assessment is also broadly reflected in the December 2018 Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections for the euro area, which foresee annual HICP inflation at 1.8% in 2018, 1.6% in 2019, 1.7% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021. Compared with the September 2018 ECB staff macroeconomic projections, the outlook for HICP inflation has been revised slightly up for 2018 and down for 2019.

ECB Holds Rates, Confirms End of QE


ECB | Joana Ferreira | joana.ferreira@tradingeconomics.com
12/13/2018 1:48:44 PM