European Central Bank keeps rates unchanged, raises growth forecasts

  • The ECB reiterated Thursday that it is ready to extend stimulus, if needed
  • In October, it announced a reduction in the level of its monthly purchases from 60 billion to 30 billion euros

The European Central Bank (ECB) kept its monetary policy unchanged Thursday, while rising its growth forecasts for the region.

"The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases," the ECB said in a statement following a meeting in Frankfurt, Germany.

The ECB's interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at zero, 0.25 and -0.40 percent respectively.

On Thursday, the central bank confirmed its plan to extend its quantitative easing program in the new year, but with lower monthly purchases.

In October, the ECB announced a reduction in the level of its monthly purchases from 60 billion euros ($71 billion) to 30 billion euros. At that time, the bank also said that its quantitative easing program would stay in place until September 2018. It kept the door open to further extensions in the program, depending on the economic conditions of the euro area.

"If the outlook becomes less favorable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation, the Governing Council stands ready to increase the APP (asset purchase program) in terms of size and/or duration," the ECB said Thursday.

In particular, the central bank has struggled to bring up core inflation to its aim of about 2 percent. In the last macroeconomic projections, the ECB said that headline inflation would be 1.5 percent in 2017 and 1.2 percent in 2018.

On Thursday, the bank revised upwards its inflation forecast for next year to 1.4 percent.

In terms of growth, the ECB estimated in September a GDP (gross domestic product) rate of 2.2 percent for this year and 1.8 percent in 2018. This has now been revised upwards to 2.4 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018.

"The economic expansion in the euro area continued in the third quarter of 2017, when real GDP increased by 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter," ECB President Mario Draghi said following the meeting.

"The latest data and survey results point to solid and broad-based growth momentum... Private consumption is underpinned by ongoing employment gains, which are also benefiting from past labor market reforms, and by rising household wealth.

"Business investment continues to strengthen on the back of very favorable financing conditions, rising corporate profitability and strengthening demand. Housing investment has also risen further over recent quarters. In addition, euro area exports are being supported by the broad-based global expansion."