Euro zone money supply dries up, adding pressure for Draghi
Fragile growth in the euro zone may be welcome after a prolonged recession, but any recovery is failing to show up in monetary data, with the banking sector continuing to be a drag.
Data on Wednesday showed the annual growth rate of the euro zone's money supply — the total amount of money in circulation or existence — fell to 1 percent in December, the lowest level since late 2010.
(Read more: Too soon to declare euro zone victory: Draghi)
In addition, loans to the private sector dipped 2.3 percent in December on the year before. This was the worst fall since the data started being tracked in 1991.
Falling loans and slowing growth in money supply are both trends which began in the middle of 2012. Now, the latest weak lending and money supply statistics could push the European Central Bank (ECB) to act at its upcoming policy meeting next week.
"Today's data show that monetary conditions in the euro-zone are still very challenging. So the ECB will remain under pressure to ease policy further in 2014," James Howat, a European economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note on Wednesday.
Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, has detailed on several occasions the policy tools available if the need arose to stimulate lending or inject liquidity into the euro zone economy. However, in December, Draghi said he didn't see any immediate need for any action.
But this latest data, coupled with very low inflation, has led Barclays to predict the ECB will cut its main refinancing rate by 15 basis points in February or March. Barclays also expects a 10 basis point cut to ECB deposit rates, taking them into negative territory and effectively charging banks to store cash at the central bank.
Societe Generale said Wednesday's figures would "probably not" affect the outcome of next week's ECB meeting. It forecast though that the ECB would cut rates by 10-15 basis points during the Spring, as well as increase liquidity via a medium-term refinancing operation.
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