The European Central Bank took no action on rates today in a move (or lack thereof) that was not unexpected. Of note, however, was the central bank’s confirmation that it does indeed plan on ending its monetary easing program by the end of the year.
A recent article from CNBC quoted a statement from the central bank saying "Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018."
The decision to put an official end to the region’s stimulus program comes at an interesting time, as the EU grapples with Italy over its fiscal programs and budget. The ongoing monetary issues in Italy present a significant challenge to the region, and some analyst have suggested that the country could even eventually leave the union.
Bond prices in the region could potentially fall, pushing yields and borrowing costs higher as the ECB no longer provides a safety net for the market. Higher borrowing costs could exacerbate the problems in Italy and other nations with high debt loads.
Rates to Eventually Rise
Removing the bond-buying stimulus is a major step towards policy normalization. The central bank had previously suggested that interest rates would not likely begin to rise until next summer, a view that was reiterated in its latest meeting. Like the U.S. and other nations currently in a tightening cycle, the path of higher rates is likely to be very gradual. The EU will likely look to remain accommodating with regards to its policy as long as inflation remains in check.
The euro currency has come under pressure in recent sessions as the dollar has pushed higher. Although today’s ECB announcement has not had a major impact on the shared currency, recent market volatility and risk aversion has likely been a key factor in recent declines. The U.S. Dollar index is currently trading around a three month high, and further strength could potentially fuel some profit taking in gold.
Gold prices in euros edged slightly higher following the announcement and are trading around even on the day. Gold in U.S. dollars is trading slightly lower as the market consolidates recent gains.