ecb holds rates steady as eurozone crisis deepens
Last Updated : GMT 09:12:58
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ECB holds rates steady as eurozone crisis deepens

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today ECB holds rates steady as eurozone crisis deepens

Frankfurt - AFP

The European Central Bank held its key interest rates steady, as expected Wednesday, leaving eurozone borrowing costs where they have been since December even as the sovereign debt crisis deepens. The ECB\'s policy-setting governing council voted to leave the rate for its main refinancing operations unchanged at 1.0 percent at its regular policy meeting, held this month on Wednesday owing to a public holiday on Thursday. Few analysts had been expecting the central bank to announce any rate cuts this month, but there is some speculation ECB chief Mario Draghi could, at the regular post-meeting news conference, announce additional measures to prop up the euro and keep the single currency area\'s debt-wracked economy up and running as the crisis clouds grow ever darker. At the very least, Draghi could use the conference to signal possible monetary easing next month, analysts believe. The Italian took over as ECB president last November and has certainly not shied away from surprise moves in his short career at the helm so far. The ECB is also scheduled to publish its latest quarterly staff projections on inflation and growth which could highlight the downside economic risks for the 17 countries that share the euro and bolster the case for a rate cut. \"After the largely expected decision to keep interest rates at 1.0 percent, the key question is what signals president Draghi may give on the bank\'s willingness to take further action to diffuse the eurozone debt crisis,\" said Capital Economics economist Ben May. \"Of course, given recent speculation that the ECB could soon reduce interest rates, markets will be looking for any hints as to how low rates could go,\" he said. But of greater importance would be any guidance on the ECB\'s willingness to step up its unconventional policy measures, the analyst continued. Draghi \"may signal that the ECB stands ready to provide more long-term loans to the banks should eurozone wide bank tensions grow. But we expect (him) to reiterate that it is up to national policymakers to solve their own fiscal problems and to recapitalise their banks,\" May said. The ECB has never hesitated to act from the very beginning of the crisis. It quickly reversed last year\'s rate hikes to bring eurozone borrowing costs back down to an all-time low of 1.0 percent and embarked on a hotly contested programme of indirectly buying up the bonds of debt-mired countries. Most recently, in two so-called long-term refinancing operations (LTROs) in December and February, it pumped more than 1.0 trillion euros ($1.25 trillion) into the banking system to avert a dangerous credit squeeze in the euro area. Nevertheless, ECB officials have all along insisted that such measures cannot cure the root cause of the crisis -- profligate spending by governments. Newedge Strategy analyst Annalisa Piazza said she expected \"the tone of the conference to be dovish, with the ECB leaving the door open for some policy action any time soon.\" She believed that not responding to current developments would entail high risks \"and the ECB will have to boost confidence in order to avoid spread negative effects of the current uncertainties on the real economy.\" Thus, she was not ruling out the announcement of additional \"non-standard measures\" at the press conference, Piazza said. RBS European Economics economist Silvio Peruzzo predicted the ECB \"might want to wait for further corroborating data to conclude that its second half of the year recovery expectations are challenged and hence cut rates.\" ING Belgium economist Carsten Brzeski said the ECB \"is caught between a rock and a hard place: opening the fire hose again could lead to political complacency, while doing nothing could accelerate the latest market turmoil.\" The ECB \"looks tired of being the eurozone\'s fire brigade and seems to have a preference for staying on hold. Despite latest developments in Greece and Spain, it looks likely that the ECB will want to keep pressure as high as possible to tackle political complacency,\" the analyst predicted.

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