Excerpt from the statement by Mario Draghi, President of the ECB:
Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. Incoming information confirms that the moderate recovery of the euro area economy is proceeding in line with our previous assessment. At the same time, the latest ECB staff macroeconomic projections, now covering the period up to the end of 2016, support earlier expectations of a prolonged period of low inflation, to be followed by a gradual upward movement in HICP inflation rates towards levels closer to 2%. In keeping with this picture, monetary and credit dynamics remain subdued. Inflation expectations for the euro area over the medium to long term continue to be firmly anchored in line with our aim of maintaining inflation rates below, but close to, 2%.
Regarding the medium-term outlook for prices and growth, the information and analysis now available fully confirm our decision to maintain an accommodative monetary policy stance for as long as necessary. This will assist the gradual economic recovery in the euro area. We firmly reiterate our forward guidance. We continue to expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time. This expectation is based on an overall subdued outlook for inflation extending into the medium term, given the broad-based weakness of the economy, the high degree of unutilised capacity and subdued money and credit creation.
Real GDP in the euro area rose by 0.3%, quarter on quarter, in the last quarter of 2013, thereby increasing for three consecutive quarters. Developments in survey-based confidence indicators up to February are consistent with continued moderate growth also in the first quarter of this year. Looking ahead, the ongoing recovery is expected to proceed, albeit at a slow pace. In particular, some further improvement in domestic demand should materialise, supported by the accommodative monetary policy stance, improving financing conditions and the progress made in fiscal consolidation and structural reform. In addition, real incomes are supported by lower energy prices. Economic activity is also expected to benefit from a gradual strengthening of demand for euro area exports. At the same time, although unemployment in the euro area is stabilising, it remains high, and the necessary balance sheet adjustments in the public and private sectors will continue to weigh on the pace of the economic recovery.
According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, euro area annual HICP inflation was 0.8% in February 2014, unchanged from the (upwardly revised) outcome for January. While energy prices fell more strongly in February than in the previous month, increases in industrial goods and services prices were higher than in January. On the basis of current information and prevailing futures prices for energy, annual HICP inflation rates are expected to remain at around current levels in the coming months. Thereafter, inflation rates should gradually increase and reach levels closer to 2%, in line with inflation expectations for the euro area over the medium to long term.