Excerpts from the Introductory statement to the press conference by Mario Draghi:
Incoming information confirms a robust pace of economic expansion, which accelerated more than expected in the second half of 2017. The strong cyclical momentum, the ongoing reduction of economic slack and increasing capacity utilisation strengthen further our confidence that inflation will converge towards our inflation aim of below, but close to, 2%. At the same time, domestic price pressures remain muted overall and have yet to show convincing signs of a sustained upward trend. Against this background, the recent volatility in the exchange rate represents a source of uncertainty which requires monitoring with regard to its possible implications for the medium-term outlook for price stability. Overall, an ample degree of monetary stimulus remains necessary for underlying inflation pressures to continue to build up and support headline inflation developments over the medium term. This continued monetary support is provided by the net asset purchases, by the sizeable stock of acquired assets and the forthcoming reinvestments, and by our forward guidance on interest rates.
Let me now explain our assessment in greater detail, starting with the economic analysis. Real GDP increased by 0.7%, quarter on quarter, in the third quarter of 2017, following similar growth in the second quarter. The latest economic data and survey results indicate continued strong and broad-based growth momentum at the turn of the year. Our monetary policy measures, which have facilitated the deleveraging process, continue to underpin domestic demand. Private consumption is supported by rising employment, which is also benefiting from past labour market reforms, and by growing household wealth. Business investment continues to strengthen on the back of very favourable financing conditions, rising corporate profitability and solid demand. Housing investment has improved further over recent quarters. In addition, the broad-based global expansion is providing impetus to euro area exports.
The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook are assessed as broadly balanced. On the one hand, the prevailing strong cyclical momentum could lead to further positive growth surprises in the near term. On the other hand, downside risks continue to relate primarily to global factors, including developments in foreign exchange markets.
Euro area annual HICP inflation was 1.4% in December 2017, down from 1.5% in November. This reflected mainly developments in energy prices. Looking ahead, on the basis of current futures prices for oil, annual rates of headline inflation are likely to hover around current levels in the coming months. For their part, measures of underlying inflation remain subdued – in part owing to special factors – and have yet to show convincing signs of a sustained upward trend. Yet, looking forward, they are expected to rise gradually over the medium term, supported by our monetary policy measures, the continuing economic expansion, the corresponding absorption of economic slack and rising wage growth.