Excerpts from the Introductory statement to the press conference by Mario Draghi:
Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. We continue to expect them to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of our net asset purchases. Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, we confirm that our net asset purchases, at the new monthly pace of €60 billion, are intended to run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim. The net purchases will be made alongside reinvestments of the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the asset purchase programme.
Our monetary policy measures have continued to preserve the very favourable financing conditions that are necessary to secure a sustained convergence of inflation rates towards levels below, but close to, 2% over the medium term. Incoming data since our meeting in early March confirm that the cyclical recovery of the euro area economy is becoming increasingly solid and that downside risks have further diminished. At the same time, underlying inflation pressures continue to remain subdued and have yet to show a convincing upward trend. Moreover, the ongoing volatility in headline inflation underlines the need to look through transient developments in HICP inflation, which have no implication for the medium-term outlook for price stability.
A very substantial degree of monetary accommodation is still needed for underlying inflation pressures to build up and support headline inflation in the medium term. If the outlook becomes less favourable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation, we stand ready to increase our asset purchase programme in terms of size and/or duration.
Headline inflation has been recovering from the very low levels seen in 2016, largely owing to higher energy price increases. After reaching 2.0% in February 2017, euro area annual HICP inflation stood at 1.5% in March. This reflected mainly lower energy and unprocessed food price inflation, but also a decline in services price inflation. Looking ahead, on the basis of current futures prices for oil, headline inflation is likely to increase in April and thereafter to hover around current levels until the end of this year. However, as unutilised resources are still weighing on domestic wage and price formation, measures of underlying inflation remain low and are expected to rise only gradually over the medium term, supported by our monetary policy measures, the expected continuing economic recovery and the corresponding gradual absorption of slack.