The euro jumped to a 9-day high on Thursday as the European Central Bank broadly stuck to its outlook for growth and inflation while outlining concerns about the single currency’s strength.
The attitude of the bank to the single currency’s 14 percent rise against the dollar this year was at the heart of a stalling of the euro’s rally at the end of last month.
Reuters last week reported sources familiar with the bank’s discussions as saying that the gains were worrying a growing number of policymakers and ECB President Mario Draghi said most now saw it as a factor.
But Draghi’s casting of the currency as simply one of the main risks to forecasts, and his stress that the outlook for growth was broadly unchanged, was enough to allow the euro to surge past $1.20 as he spoke on Thursday.
“This was classic Draghi at the press conference: very balanced regarding the economic outlook but very vague regarding the outlook for policy,” Martin Arnold, FX and macro strategist at ETF Securities in London.
European shares rose after the ECB reaffirmed its ultra-easy policy stance. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was last up 0.4 percent on the day, with the export-oriented German DAX up 1 percent.
Bond markets, by contrast, focussed on the lack of a timetable for winding back the ECB’s program of emergency bond buying, sending yields lower.
Germany’s benchmark 10-year government bond yield fell almost 3 basis points to 0.31 percent, its lowest level since late June.
Italy’s 10-year bond yield tumbled 8 bps to 1.938 percent , also its lowest level since late June. That pushed the gap over top-rated German Bund yields to 163 bps — its tightest in more than two weeks.
Portuguese bond yields slid 9 bps to 2.76 percent and were on track for their biggest one-day fall since July.
“There was no clear sign of tapering, so there is a bit of relief in bond markets,” said ABN AMRO senior fixed income strategist Kim Liu. “Draghi stressed the bulk of decisions will be made in October.”
Draghi pointed to a broadly unchanged outlook for the euro zone but said several times that the euro’s strength was a risk to that outlook.
The euro initially surged after he said the bank was keeping its growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged.
It fell back almost immediately by just under a full cent from those highs when he added that recent volatility in the exchange rate was a source of uncertainty and had contributed to a trimming of some of the bank’s inflation forecasts.
But by 1343 GMT, 15 minutes after the end of the bank’s post-meeting news conference, the euro was trading 0.7 percent higher on the day at $1.1997.
That pushed the dollar index to its weakest since January 2015.
“(Draghi) is firing bullets to try to slow the currency’s strength down as much as they can,” said Stephen Gallo, European head of FX strategy at BMO Financial Group in London.
“The drop in yields and tightening of spreads slowed it down and possibly they will be able to design a smooth exit. I don’t think they are comfortable at all on the level of the currency but they are trying to control the level of pain.”