Mario Draghi to keep stimulus on ice in this week's ECB meeting

Jake Cordell
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The ECB is unlikely to announce any policy changes at its meeting in Vienna on Thursday
The ECB is unlikely to announce any policy changes at its meeting in Vienna on Thursday (Source: Getty)

Mario Draghi will put his weapons out on display but keep the ammunition locked away at this week's European Central Bank (ECB) monetary policy meeting, experts have predicted.

The president is expected to hold fire on another bout of quantitative easing or further interest rate cuts, as early indications appear that the ECB's latest efforts to stoke growth and spur inflation appear to be coming through in terms of looser lending standards by banks and falling bond yields.

Michala Marcussen, chief economist at Societe Generale said the ECB will not take any fresh action when it meets on Thursday. Howard Archer of IHS Global also said he expected the ECB to "sit tight", while Roger Bootle of Capital Economics said Draghi will "strike a dovish tone" but not budge either way on his monetary policy stance.

"The Eurozone economy, and domestic demand in particular, have proven to be remarkably resilient in the face of a difficult external backdrop," added Standard and Poor's.

Nevertheless, Draghi will up the ante in the twin messages he has put at the heart of the ECB's public statements in recent weeks. First, that the bank has not run out of policy options and all potential measures, including things like so-called "helicopter drops" remain on the table. And second, that the ECB needs the support of national governments to introduce structural reforms.

Read more: ECB tells Germany it is not going to take any more of its flak

The central bank is also expected to announce higher inflation targets, as the impressive 0.5 per cent GDP growth in the first quarter, falling unemployment, and rising oil prices combine to push up prices across the Eurozone.

In March, after sustained financial market turmoil, the ECB said it expected inflation to run at just 0.1 per cent this year. However, that estimation was based on oil prices averaging $35 a barrel, whereas they are currently just shy of $50 a barrel.

Furthermore, the ECB's programme of corporate bond purchases, announced in March, has not yet started.

Two new aspects, which could provide fresh talking points for weary ECB-watchers, could also surface in the press conference which takes place after the policy decision on Thursday afternoon.

Read more: These are the four things that are worrying the ECB's top economist

The conclusion of the next stage of the Greek bailout paves the way for Greek government bonds to be included in the ECB's asset purchasing programmes. This would be a key milestone in the Greek rescue, and could send the cost of borrowing and refinancing down dramatically - ahead of a potential Greek return to the international capital markets. Draghi will likely volunteer some further information on if, how and when he sees this happening.

The UK's EU referendum is also likely to feature, since this is the last ECB meeting before the In/Out vote in 23 June. Draghi has tipped his toe in the waters of intervention before, suggesting that Brexit is a potential risk to the Eurozone's growth and also said that prolonged negotiations with the UK after a vote to leave could sap confidence in the single currency bloc.

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