Last Thursday financial markets were poised for news that the European Central Bank (ECB) was to expand its stimulus programme by €15bn per month to €75bn as well as cut Eurozone interest rates by 10 basis points to -0.3%. Mario Draghi held up his end of the bargain on the latter but, despite still sitting well south of its 2% inflation target, pledged to keep the central bank’s quantitative easing plan as is until March 2017.
Given the immediate market reaction and his comments a day later perhaps those needing to buy Euros wish that he would have added the words “for now” to his initial statement. The Pound had been happily trading in the mid 1.42s at the start of the month; the highest level since November 2007, with the exception of the market spike in July of this year. As Draghi began speaking GBP/EUR was trading at 1.4168. However, the Pound dropped like a stone on the news losing 3.5 cents, bottoming out at 1.3814.
Attempting to reassure markets that the ECB has more firepower up its sleeve should inflation remain low, Draghi said on Friday that the central bank has “the power to act, the determination to act and the commitment to act”.
He added: “There cannot be any limit to how far we are willing to deploy our instruments, within our mandate, and to achieve our mandate”.
He said there was “no doubt that if we had to intensify the use of our instruments to ensure we achieve our price stability mandate, then we would”.
The “mandate” to which Draghi referred is the inflation target, which the ECB has consistently and substantially missed for the past two years. Nevertheless, Mr Draghi defended the recent tweak to the policy change as “exactly the right one”. He went further, pointing out that “it was not meant to address market expectations, it was meant to address our objectives for inflation”.
The broadside was continued by Draghi’s deputy, Vitor Constancio, who told CNBC that “the markets got it wrong in forming their expectations”.
Mr Draghi suggested that the markets had failed to calculate correctly the impact of reinvesting the ECB’s €1.46tn bond purchase under the existing stimulus package, which he says will create an extra €680bn in liquidity to the Eurozone economy by 2019.
Following Friday’s comments the Euro has lost some of its gains against the Pound. However, the rebound has stopped some way short of the trading level earlier in the month, with the market currently offering prices in the high 1.38s.
All of the attention is now focussed across the Atlantic with news of an interest rate hike in the US expected before the end of year. Given recent comments made by the Federal Reserve and robust employment data in the States, it is unlikely that Janet Yellen will follow the ECB’s suit and cause a shock.