The European Central Bank (ECB) announced on Thursday its plans to prolong its Quantitative Easing (QE) programme until the end of 2017 while the amount of the bond purchases will be trimmed by €20 billion.
It appears that the Eurozone officials found it difficult to reach an agreement because the ECB decided to extend its bond buying program but at the same time announced the reduction of the bond purchases each month from €80 billion to €60 billion. Analysts forecasted that the bond purchasing program would be extended but without tapering its pace.
ECB President Mario Draghi probably confirmed that the latest monetary policy decision could be a compromise because during his press conference he made reference to the policy makers reaching a “broad consensus”. Moreover, he mentioned that the QE programme might extend beyond the end of 2017 in case the ECB will find it necessary to boost the Eurozone’s inflation level to the 2% target.
As to the eligible assets for purchase, the ECB amended the rule to include bonds with yields below the current deposit rate of -0.4% in order for the QE programme to run trouble-free. According to Mr. Draghi, the decision to reduce the asset purchases amount from April 2017 onwards was based on the reduction of deflation risks. He went on to say that there is still a long way towards recovery by attributing this to the slow progress of structural reforms by the Eurozone member countries.
The EUR/USD fell on Thursday, after the ECB decision and the press conference that followed. There was an initial jump by 0.8% due to comments made by Mr. Draghi that there is a probability for increasing the QE programme than to wind it down. But afterwards the world’s most popular currency pair decreased by 2.4% by the end of the day’s trading to 1.06203.
Reporters present at the press conference on Thursday asked about the ECB’s intentions in case of faster recovery of the Eurozone’s economy, and more specifically whether the QE programme would be tapered even further if that happens. But Mr. Draghi responded by saying that the current economic conditions do not allow for such a consideration yet as there is a long way to cover.
Many already made reference to the reduction of monthly bond purchases from €80 billion to €60 billion as tapering. However, Mr. Draghi was quick to dismiss any such conclusions by saying that Eurozone policymakers have not had any discussions on the subject as tapering is rather connected to the gradual reduction of the purchases to zero.
Eurozone economic growth forecasts remained largely unchanged compared to three months ago, with expectations that the economy could grow by 1.7% during this year and also 2017. Growth for the following two years (2018 and 2019) is forecasted by the ECB to fall to 1.6%.