Europe Economy

Draghi poised to unleash a fresh batch of ECB stimulus

All eyes will switch to Frankfurt Thursday and the monthly monetary policy meeting of the European Central Bank, where President Mario Draghi is widely expected to reveal fresh stimulus measures in a bid to fend off sluggish inflation and lackluster growth.

Investors looking at the details of a possible fresh package mostly agree that Draghi is likely to address a number of areas of the bond-buying program currently in place, but much of the details are still very much up for debate.

Alessia Pierdomenico | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The main tweaks he is expected to make are on the size and timetable of the bank's massive 60 billion euro ($63.6 billion) a month bond-buying scheme or a further push of the deposit rate into negative territory.

But market estimates just how much Draghi is likely to move are still pretty far-ranging.

"It is difficult to see a clear market consensus on what 'Santa Mario' should bring on Thursday," said chief economist at ING, Carsten Brzeski.

Brzeski has forecast a minor increase in the size of monthly QE purchases, a deposit rate cut of at least 15 basis points (bp) down from the current level of -0.2 percent deposit rate, a refinancing rate cut of 5 basis points from the record low of 0.05 percent.

Other measures he expects include an increase in the accepted amounts of banks' liquidity on the ECB's current account facility to "mitigate the negative impact of a deposit rate cut on banks" and the inclusion of regional government bonds in the ECB's monthly bond purchases.

"The deposit rate is also about leaving them (the ECB) with enough assets to buy, because typically they will only buy down to yields at above the deposit rate. We are currently looking at a 2-year German bund yield that is -45 basis points and a lot of negative yielding assets," portfolio manager at PIMCO, Mike Amey told CNBC.

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Analysts at UBS are slightly more specific, anticipating that the market is pricing a cut in the ECB's deposit rate of 13.5bp and by a further 6.5bp within the next 12 months.

"According to our calculations, ECB sovereign bond purchases are anticipated to increase by 8.5 billion euros a month along with an extension of the end-date of the programme from September 2016," strategist at the bank, Nishay Patel said.

"With sovereign bond purchases representing around 70 percent of all monthly asset purchases of 60 billion euros this would represent a monthly increase in purchases of all bonds of about 12 billion euros," he added.

Euro zone inflation is expected to hold steady in November, unchanged from the previous month according to official data published on Wednesday.

Eurostat said consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro stayed at 0.1 percent in the year to November in its flash estimate, with the data adding fuel to the European Central Bank's case for increasing its massive bond-buying program to boost prices at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

The figures, which were weaker than expected, give a "final green light" to Draghi to both increase the pace of its trillion-euro asset purchases and cut its deposit rate at Thursday's policy meeting according to chief European economist at Capital Economics, Jonathan Loynes.

"Note that the headline inflation rate will rise quite sharply in the next few months on the anniversary of more big falls in oil prices. By January, it may be over 1.0 percent," said Loynes.

"As such, the ECB is likely to remain nervous that a further prolonged period of below-target inflation will lead to a bigger drop in inflation expectations and take action tomorrow accordingly," Loynes added.

Watch the euro

Since the October ECB meeting, monetary and financial conditions in the euro area have improved quite significantly, mostly in anticipation of an upcoming policy package at this month's meeting, with the improvement primarily due to a depreciation of the euro, according to Barclays.

The fresh round of measures, if announced will likely weigh on the euro against the dollar. But the effects are likely to have less of a short-term impact on the currency than when the first round of easing was launched.

"It will push the euro lower hopefully, that is part of the aim. If you lower the structure of interest rates, then potentially you keep the euro on the back foot and that is one of the ways in which you get inflation up," Amey said.

Investors look forward to a better year for oil

"I think there is a pretty good chance the euro does push to parity (against the dollar). But we have seen quite a big move down from $1.15 to $1.05, maybe we will see a bit more, but in the short term we have seen quite a big move already," he said.

If the ECB delivers more easing than markets are pricing, the year's low in euro dollar is likely to be tested, according to Patel.

"But the potential for QE2 to move the euro is less than was the case with QE1, given the different starting points for the currency, and better Euro area growth now than earlier in the year," he said

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