As expected, on 12 September the ECB delivered a package of monetary stimulus measures in response to a deteriorating macroeconomic outlook of subdued inflation and sluggish economic growth.
Key measures announced:
Deposit facility rate – the interest rate earnt by banks that deposit money with the ECB overnight – cut by 10 basis points, to -0.50%.
Asset Purchase Programme (or QE) was restarted at a monthly pace of 20 billion EUR from 1 November.
Forward guidance – was made solely contingent on the state of the economy, stating that interest rates will remain at current or lower levels for an indefinite amount of time, and at least until the “inflation outlook robustly converges to the ECB’s target”. Previously, forward guidance also included a date-based leg, which was removed in the latest statement.
Two smaller measures were also announced which consist of (a) more favourable conditions at which banks can borrow through the TLTRO-III programme and (b) a two-tiered reserve remuneration system aimed at partially offsetting the side effects of negative interest rates on bank’s profitability.
The rationale for the latest ECB policy
The most notable part of the ECB’s announcement was on forward guidance, linking it solely to inflation outturns. This marks a significant departure from the ECB’s previous forward guidance, where it stated that “interest rates would not rise before mid-2020”. The removal of an explicit time reference is the critical element. It aims at reinforcing the message that the ECB is willing to keep its current accommodative monetary policy stance until the inflation outlook is in line with its medium-term target of “close to, but below, 2%”.
President Draghi explained that the change in the ECB’s forward guidance stems from the need to prevent inflation expectations to re-anchor at lower levels. Indeed, persistently lower inflation expectations would undermine the ECB’s ability to fulfil its mandate of price stability.