European Central Bank keeps interest rates, guidance unchanged

European Central Bank keeps interest rates, guidance unchanged

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.

The eurozone finished 2017 strongly with 2.4 percent growth, the best performance in a decade, buoyed by European Central Bank stimulus and a rise in global growth that increased trade.

Officials at the European Central Bank rate-setting meeting left policy unchanged and focused their discussion on assessing the recent slowdown in economic data, Draghi said on Thursday.

"The Eurosystem will continue to reinvest the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the asset purchase program for an extended period of time after the end of its net asset purchases, and in any case for as long as necessary", Draghi said.

An 11 percent oil price rise this year, on top of last year's 18 percent jump, is increasing inflation levels and some of the bank's top policymakers have said they expect the recent soft patch in euro zone economic data to pass.

Equity futures were tipping Nasdaq to open 0.4% higher while the other two indexes are seen only marginally higher. 2017 was a good year for the Eurozone, with some healthy growth stats and economic progression taking place.

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.

Draghi also warned in Washington last week that rising protectionism might already be hurting business and consumer sentiment. Weather, strikes, the timing of Easter and more factors are behind this moderation.

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Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the meeting expected bond purchases to end this year after a short taper and to see the first rate increase in the second quarter of 2019.

A key worry is that protectionist rhetoric from the U.S. 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 USA currency.

A stronger euro would cap inflation, but would affect growth and exports. A spokesman for the Austrian central bank wasn't immediately available for comment. However, frequent suggestions of underlying weak inflation have called that timeline into question.

This suggests that the euro zone's economic downturn was more severe than earlier thought and makes the recovery even more protracted.

The impact of the euro's strength has been limited so far, however.

This confident message sent the EUR/USD to the highs of the day below $1.2200, but markets remain cautious.

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

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