Excerpts from the Introductory statement to the press conference by Mario Draghi:
The strong cyclical momentum and the significant reduction of economic slack give grounds for greater confidence that inflation will converge towards our inflation aim. At the same time, domestic price pressures remain muted overall and have yet to show convincing signs of a sustained upward trend. An ample degree of monetary stimulus therefore 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 additional net asset purchases that we decided on at our October monetary policy meeting, 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. The economic expansion in the euro area continued in the third quarter of 2017, when real GDP increased by 0.6% quarter on quarter, after 0.7% in the second quarter. The latest data and survey results point to solid and broad-based growth momentum. Our monetary policy measures, which have facilitated the deleveraging process, continue to support domestic demand. Private consumption is underpinned by ongoing employment gains, which are also benefiting from past labour market reforms, and by rising household wealth. Business investment continues to strengthen on the back of very favourable financing conditions, rising corporate profitability and strengthening demand. Housing investment has also risen further over recent quarters. In addition, euro area exports are being supported by the broad-based global expansion.
This assessment is broadly reflected in the December 2017 Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections for the euro area. These projections foresee annual real GDP increasing by 2.4% in 2017, 2.3% in 2018, 1.9% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020. Compared with the September 2017 ECB staff macroeconomic projections, the outlook for real GDP growth has been revised up substantially.
Risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook remain broadly balanced. On the one hand, the strong cyclical momentum, underpinned by continued positive developments in sentiment indicators, could lead to further positive growth surprises in the near term. On the other hand, downside risks continue to relate primarily to global factors and developments in foreign exchange markets.
According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, euro area annual HICP inflation was 1.5% in November, up from 1.4% in October. At the same time, measures of underlying inflation have moderated somewhat recently, in part owing to special factors. Looking ahead, on the basis of current futures prices for oil, annual rates of headline inflation are likely to moderate in the coming months, mainly reflecting base effects in energy prices, before increasing again. Underlying inflation is 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.
This assessment is also broadly reflected in the December 2017 Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections for the euro area, which foresee annual HICP inflation at 1.5% in 2017, 1.4% in 2018, 1.5% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020. Compared with the September 2017 ECB staff macroeconomic projections, the outlook for headline HICP inflation has been revised up, mainly reflecting higher oil and food prices.