European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is widely expected to announced a fresh round of stimulus measures on Thursday to rev up the euro area economy, a final push before the expiry of his term at the end of October.
However, the group of hawkish policymakers opposed to a restart of the quantitative easing, or QE, has grown, casting doubts on the expectations for a comprehensive stimulus package.
Draghi is set to hand over the reins to the outgoing International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde on October 31. The former French finance minister is set to inherit a host of unconventional policy measures the effectiveness of which are increasingly being doubted now.
In the July policy meeting, the ECB had altered its forward guidance to clearly signal that it is planning an interest rate cut in the near term and a comprehensive stimulus package that could include a tiering system and a fresh round of asset purchases.
The Governing Council is set to announce the policy decision at 7.45 am ET on September 12, Thursday. Draghi will hold his customary press conference at 8.30 am ET.
Economists widely expect the bank to cut the deposit facility rate by 10 basis points to -0.50 percent.
The ECB may also opt for a tiered deposit rate that can reduce the burden of the cost banks pay on the cash they park at the central bank.
The main refi rate is currently at a record low zero percent and the marginal lending facility rate is at 0.25 percent.
The bank is also expected to announce asset purchases of EUR 20-40 billion a month, running for a maximum 6-9 months.
QE opponents, the main being the Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, fear further asset purchases, especially buying government bonds, would take the ECB too deep into uncertain territory. They are also worried about the urgency and effectiveness of such actions.
The bank may also further tweak its forward guidance to reflect its more dovish stance and reprice the TLTRO-III longer term loans.
The ECB ended its massive EUR 2.6 trillion Asset Purchase Programme, which began in 2015, in December.
Eurozone interest rates were raised last in July 2011 by 25 basis points and Draghi is set to be the only ECB chief thus far who did not raise interest rates.
The Italian economist also raised several eyebrows as the was bold enough to undertake several unconventional measures at the ECB, mainly asset purchases and negative interest rates, which were inconceivable in the euro area years ago.
Meanwhile, there has been no let up on the economic front. Eurozone inflation remains low and growth is slowing with no prospect of a strong rebound in the near future, thanks to the global slowdown and trade wars.
The ECB has been chasing the goal of keeping inflation ‘below, but close to 2 percent’, but the headline figure hit 1 percent in August. Core inflation was steady at 0.9 percent.
Growth in the 19-nation economy slowed to 0.2 percent in the second quarter from 0.4 percent in the previous three months. Further, the prospect of a recession in the biggest euro area economy, Germany, is growing.
“If the ECB is really serious about closing the gap between inflation expectations and its own target, anything else but a big package can be the outcome of Thursday’s meeting,” ING Bank economist Carsten Brzeski said.
“The costs of waiting or only delivering parts of a big package and then trying to get ahead of the curve at a later stage will be higher – an experience eurozone policymakers have had quite a few times during the last ten years.”
The economist expects Draghi to unveil a total package in his final ‘stunt’.
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