The European Central Bank (ECB) left its benchmark interest rate unchanged Thursday and said that its stands poised to increase its asset purchase program if needed, quashing any remaining expectations that it would signal a stimulus wind-down.
President Mario Draghi said low inflation rates meant that a "substantial degree" of monetary policy remains necessary until the end of the year at least. But he added that the central bank would decide in the fall - at its October meeting - on the status of its bond-buying program for next year.
"The Governing Council confirms that the net asset purchases, at the current monthly pace of 60 billion euro, are intended to run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary," Draghi told a press conference.
"This autumn, we will decide on the calibration of our policy instruments beyond the end of the year," Draghi noted. Investors will now eagerly be looking to the ECB's October rate meeting.
The central bank held interest rates steady at 0.0 percent and said that it expects them to remain at present levels for an extended period, "well beyond our asset purchase program."
Investors have been closely watching to see when the ECB will reign in its quantitative easing (QE), but Draghi's deferral was largely anticipated as the economist continues to face pressure from a strong euro.
The single currency rose further on Draghi's comments and revised growth forecasts from the central bank. The ECB said Thursday it expects the euro zone to grow 2.2 percent in 2017, up from a previous forecast of 1.9 percent.
This continued rally in the euro caused the central bank to it cut its inflation forecasts for next year from 1.3 percent to 1.2 percent. This remains well below the central bank's target of below but close to 2 percent.
The euro has appreciated by around 2.4 percent against the greenback since the last meeting of the bank and concerns are growing that the strong euro might dampen the region's recovery and weaken inflation prospects. Since the start of the year, the euro has risen 13 percent, buoyed in part by a weakening dollar.
The higher the euro, the more expensive products and services get for non-euro customers, which might affect exports from the currency union. At the same time it dampens inflation as imported goods get cheaper. Some see Draghi's ambiguity as being an intentional effort to quell investors and end the euro's rally.