The European Central Bank has tweaked its main monetary policy statement—a hint that it is getting closer to withdrawing a key economic stimulus program.
The bank on Thursday left its key interest rates on hold as well as the size of its bond-buying stimulus program. But its statement omitted an earlier promise that it could increase its bond-purchase stimulus in size or duration if the economic outlook worsens.
Economic growth of 2.7% year on year in the fourth quarter has made that promise increasingly outdated.
The bank has said it will continue buying 30 billion euros (US$37 million) in bonds per month through September and longer if needed—but has given no precise end date.
Stimulus withdrawal could mean a stronger euro versus the dollar, higher returns on savings and stiffer borrowing costs for indebted governments in the 19-country eurozone.
The euro jumped higher on the news, rising from US$1.2379 before the bank issued its policy statement to as high as US$1.2425. Such monetary stimulus tends to weaken a currency, so a hint that an exit is coming tends to send the euro higher.
Andrew Grantham, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a research note that the “small change” in language will likely lead to further shifts in tone.
“Given the appreciation of the euro over the past year or so, which has taken the effective exchange rate almost back to where it was in 2014, policymakers may feel that changes in tone and policy should be gradual so as not to spark much further appreciation,” Grantham wrote.
“However, with the unemployment rate lower than it was and growth strong, the economy is clearly in less need of stimulus. We see the euro only slightly stronger than current levels by the end of this year, before moving back into the low 1.30’s against the [greenback] in 2019 as the ECB finally joins other developed economies in raising interest rates.”
European Central Bank head Mario Draghi expressed concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s announced trade measures, saying the immediate spillover “is not going to be big” but that “unilateral decisions are dangerous.”
He told a news conference Thursday that trade disputes should be resolved in multi-lateral negotiations, such as in the World Trade Organization.
Draghi said the most important aspect of any potential tariffs would be the impact on economic confidence, which is “difficult to assess.” He said that a drop in confidence would also hurt economic output and inflation.