European Central Bank Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

ECB president Mario Draghi

ECB president Mario Draghi

At the day's main event, the ECB kept its policy unchanged as was widely expected, but focus will be on a news conference by the bank's chief, Mario Draghi, for any hint about winding up the ECB's powerful stimulus this year.

The central bank's quest to restore sustainable inflation of just under 2% has been complicated by data suggesting that the euro area's strongest growth in a decade may be faltering.

Indeed it may be traders were reacting to the insight that the only "certainty" was that nothing is certain in relation to ending the ECB's stimulus programme (QE).

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". But with the risk of a global trade war still looming, it may not make a decision until absolutely necessary.

Draghi's cautious comments sparked a sell-off in the euro, which slumped 0.4 percent against the dollar to hit $1.211 in late afternoon trading.

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Commenting on the European Central Bank announcement, Nancy Curtin, chief investment officer at Close Brothers Asset Management, said: "Europe remains firmly in a period of growth, but lately we've seen momentum slow significantly".

The council left the short-term interest benchmark at zero and the deposit rate at minus 0.4 percent.

However, "the June meeting will be crunch time... the European Central Bank will have a better view on whether weak economic data were only a soft patch or the start of a downswing, and on whether inflation moving to 2.0 percent is still more wish than reality".

Europe's rises dragged it of one-week lows, though a mixed set of earnings weighed, including a 79 percent drop in profit at Deutsche Bank.

World markets remained edgy on Thursday, with shares eking out gains amid concern over the global economic outlook and with USA bond yields at four-year highs after breaking above the psychologically significant 3% line this week.

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A key worry is that protectionist rhetoric from the United States could push down the value of the dollar, an economic anomaly as the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates several times this year, a natural support for the U.S. currency.

Euro zone inflation is so weak that even after the creation of 9 million jobs since early 2013, measures of underlying price growth that strip out energy and food are barely rising.

Nonetheless, the euro's recent strength has had a relatively limited impact in recent weeks.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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