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ECB Rate Decision: No More Quantitative Easing

The European Central Bank has announced the end of the quantitative easing era, with bond-buying programs to end this month and maturing debt to be reinvested past the start of rate hikes.

Key Takeaways

  • The ECB’s president Mario Draghi stated that he believes economic risks will worsen even in light of the new monetary policy announced at today’s conference.
  • Draghi cites geopolitics, trade protectionism, and market volatility as risk factors now and in the future.
  • He stated while broadly speaking, the risks are balanced, they are now “moving to the downside”.
  • The euro dropped today following the press conference amid uncertainty regarding the eurozone economy and the level of influence and support to expect from the ECB.

The decision to end the European QE program is a major one, bringing the last four years of of bond buying to a close with $3 trillion added to the ECB balance sheet as a result of the measures.

The Governing Council will maintain the size of the quantitative easing portfolio by reinvesting mature debt past the date when it starts raising the key ECB easing rates, and rates are to remain at record lows until the summer of 2019 if not further.

The ECB still has a medium-term inflation target of just under 2%. The GC didn’t discuss the timeline for reinvestment or for future rate hikes at today’s press conference, and the council is apparently considering a new round of longer-term loans to banks.

 

Mixed to Negative Outlook

Draghi stated that  incoming data has been “weaker than expected” and that “this may suggest lower growth momentum ahead,” adding that “the underlying strength of domestic demand continues to underpin the euro-area expansion.”

“The Governing Council intends to continue reinvesting, in full, the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the APP for an extended period of time past the date when it starts raising the key ECB interest rates,” the ECB said, adjusting the previous statement that reinvestments would continue for an “extended period”. This adjustment comes in the face of economic data weaker than that gathered by policymakers just two weeks prior.

The ECB is considered likely to take a dimmer view of future growth and inflation projections, although Draghi states that this is simply a case of growth stabilizing after a particularly good run. Many have taken the view that the ECB had little choice but to halt its asset-buying program in the face of Brexit uncertainty, the ongoing trade war, and a softening trend in the global economy and particularly in the eurozone.

Market Reaction

Gold has come under selling pressure this morning with strong data coming from the US labor market as well as a weakened euro following the uncertainty surrounding the ECB decision to end its 4-year bond-buying program.

Spot gold is trading at $1,242.50/oz with a decrease of 0.15%, a high of $1,243.34/oz and a low of $1,242.50/oz.

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