Just before U.S. traders took off on their Fourth of July holiday last week and right around the time the NFP report was released, the ECB did announce a few surprises of their own. Here are the takeaways from the latest ECB rate statement.
1. ECB still open to further stimulus
As expected, Governor Draghi and his men decided to keep interest rates and monetary policy unchanged for the time being, as they just unveiled a bunch of easing measures in their June rate statement. However, Draghi reiterated that the central bank is ready to dole out more stimulus if the economy continues to weaken and if inflation doesn’t pick up.
ECB policymakers reminded market watchers that rates will remain low for “an extended period,” which many believed might last until 2016. After all, ECB officials are aiming to push inflation closer to their 2% target, and it still has a long way to go since the annual CPI currently stands at 0.5%.
2. More details on targeted LTRO
In their previous statement, Draghi’s announcement of targeted long-term refinancing operations (TLTRO) starting in September and December took the backseat when several rate cuts were announced. This time, Draghi focused on this lending scheme that would ensure that more liquidity is funneled from banks to the private sector.
Under the TLTRO, banks would be required to maintain specified lending levels or be forced to repay their existing loans after two years. With that, banks that are taking advantage of cheap lending rates to secure more funds to fix their balance sheets or repay debt will have to make sure that these funds are channeled back to the economy. In doing so, the ECB hopes to boost lending activity while avoiding a buildup of cash in banks’ vaults.
3. Change in ECB statement schedule
Another groundbreaking announcement made in last week’s ECB statement was their decision to switch to less frequent central bank statements. From having a interest rate statement, Draghi declared that the ECB would now have monetary policy meeting every six weeks.
This change should give ECB policymakers more time to take new data into consideration prior to discussing their economic assessment and outlook. Aside from that, Draghi also pointed out that this schedule could reduce market volatility from strong easing expectations.
4. ECB meeting minutes to be published
The new schedule of ECB monetary policy statements should also give policymakers enough time to publish the meeting minutes. Not only does this improve ECB transparency, but it should also help align market expectations with the central bank’s policy bias. Draghi mentioned that ECB minutes could be published around two weeks after the interest rate statement is made.
These are likely to result to stronger euro price action during the actual event, but bear in mind that these changes won’t take place until January 2015. The ECB still has a few more monthly interest rate announcements lined up until then and these could still contain a few more bombshells. When do you think the ECB will ease again?