Excerpts from the Introductory statement to the press conference by Mario Draghi:
Looking ahead, we expect the economic expansion to firm further. The pass-through of our monetary policy measures is supporting domestic demand and facilitating the ongoing deleveraging process. The very favourable financing conditions and improvements in corporate profitability continue to promote the recovery in investment. Moreover, sustained employment gains, which are also benefiting from past structural reforms, provide support for private consumption via increases in households’ real disposable income. At the same time, there are signs of a somewhat stronger global recovery. However, economic growth in the euro area is expected to be dampened by a sluggish pace of implementation of structural reforms and remaining balance sheet adjustments in a number of sectors. The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook remain tilted to the downside and relate predominantly to global factors.
According to Eurostat, euro area annual HICP inflation increased markedly from 0.6% in November 2016 to 1.1% in December. This reflected mainly a strong increase in annual energy inflation, while there are no signs yet of a convincing upward trend in underlying inflation. Looking ahead, on the basis of current oil futures prices, headline inflation is likely to pick up further in the near term, largely reflecting movements in the annual rate of change of energy prices. However, measures of underlying inflation are expected to rise more gradually over the medium term, supported by our monetary policy measures, the expected economic recovery and the corresponding gradual absorption of slack.
To sum up, a cross-check of the outcome of the economic analysis with the signals coming from the monetary analysis confirmed the need for a continued very substantial degree of monetary accommodation to secure a sustained return of inflation rates towards levels that are below, but close to, 2% without undue delay.
Monetary policy is focused on maintaining price stability over the medium term and its accommodative stance supports economic activity. In order to reap the full benefits from our monetary policy measures, other policy areas must contribute much more decisively, both at the national and at the European level. The implementation of structural reforms needs to be substantially stepped up to increase resilience, reduce structural unemployment and boost investment, productivity and potential output growth in the euro area. Structural reforms are necessary in all euro area countries. In particular, reforms are needed to improve the business environment, including the provision of an adequate public infrastructure. In addition, the enhancement of current investment initiatives, progress on the capital markets union and reforms that will improve the resolution of non-performing loans, are a priority. Fiscal policies should also support the economic recovery, while remaining in compliance with the fiscal rules of the European Union.