Bonds, Currencies, Stocks

ECB Cuts Rates Further, Expands QE Program

 

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, ECB

The European Central Bank (ECB) surprised markets on Thursday after cutting interest rates in the Eurozone to zero, expanding its money printing program, including new corporate bonds purchases, and reducing a key deposit rate further into negative territory as it looks to revive the region’s flagging economy and attempt to fend off deflation.

The ECB announced six steps, cutting all of its key interest rates and adding an additional €20 billion ($22.3 billion) per month in asset purchases. It also announced a new program of cheap loans for banks that it is hoping will be passed along to businesses and households.

The ECB went further than economists had expected as it cut the Eurozone’s main interest rate from 0.05 percent to zero percent.

As expected by markets, the ECB cut the deposit rate by 10 basis points, further into negative territory to -0.4 percent. The marginal lending rate, paid by banks to borrow from the ECB overnight, was cut from 0.3 percent to 0.25 percent.

The ECB expanded its quantitative easing (QE) program to €80bn a month, up from €60bn, which was more than the €70bn that economists were expecting, according to the consensus of a Reuters poll of economists.

After unveiling a bigger package than the market had anticipated, ECB chief Mario Draghi implied that interest rates would stay “very low” for at least another year, however he played down speculation that rates could be cut even further.

“Rates will stay low, very low, for a long period of time and well past the horizon of our purchases,” Draghi said on Thursday during the ECB press conference, referring to the ECB’s QE program, where the bank pumps money into the European economy by buying bonds off banks.

Draghi said that he believes that inflation in the single currency bloc would remain stuck in negative territory over the coming months, citing a host of risks to economic growth from sluggish emerging market economies, volatile financial markets, and the slow pace of structural reforms.

When asked how low the ECB could cut interest rates, Draghi said “from today’s perspective and taking into account the support of our measures to growth and inflation, we don’t anticipate that it will be necessary to reduce rates further. Of course, new facts can change the situation and the outlook.”

The ECB has come under increasing pressure to boost support for the Eurozone’s struggling economy after the single currency bloc slipped back into negative inflation back in February.

But the latest moves from the ECB come amid growing skepticism that Central Banks have run out of ammunition to counter slowing economic growth and stop falling prices.

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