ECB caught between economic risks and QE exit 

  • ECB president Mario Draghi will give an update on monetary policy for the euro zone on Thursday.
  • The bank is expected to end its quantitative easing program at the end of this year.
  • Italy's standoff with Brussels remains problematic for the ECB.
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), speaks during a news conference to discuss monetary policy in Tallinn, Estonia, on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
Peti Kollanyi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), speaks during a news conference to discuss monetary policy in Tallinn, Estonia, on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

The European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has to tread a fine line once again as he gives his latest update on euro area monetary policy on Thursday.

While steering the bank out of its QE (quantitative easing) program and stressing interest rates and reinvestments going forward, Draghi is faced with an economy that may be slowing and a dreary inflation outlook.

"We expect the ECB to announce at its meeting next Thursday an end to net-purchases under the APP programme," said Natixis' Dirk Schumacher in a note. "While there has been a clear weakening in the economic environment, the ECB will argue that the reinvestment of the stock of bond holdings will ensure a continuing accommodative policy stance justifying an end of the program," he added.

On Thursday, the ECB also will publish its newest staff projections for economic growth and inflation for the next three years. While it is expected that the central bank will lower its outlook for growth for the next two years, the numbers are also expected to remain just punchy enough to underline the case to exit their purchase program.

Another big topic for Thursday will be the design of the ECB's reinvestments.

"The ECB will likely maintain its guidance that it will fully reinvest the proceeds and thus keep its bond holdings constant 'for an extended period of time' and 'for as long as necessary' to put inflation on track towards its target," said Florian Hense, Economist with Berenberg.

"The ECB may also state explicitly that full reinvestment will continue until well after the first rate. We expect full reinvestments to run until at least late 2020," he added in a note.

Given the fragility of the European banking system, another instrument which almost seemed somewhat forgotten, makes it back on the agenda: TLTROs or Targeted long term refinancing operations.

"This week, the ECB will probably reiterate that a discussion on another round of TLTRO is still premature," Hense said. "It will also not want to appear giving a helping hand to Italian banks at a time when the Italian government debates its 2019 budget with the EU."

Italy remains a headache for the ECB. For now, the debt markets have more or less kept their cool over the standoff between Rome and Brussels but give the current market volatility and the huge refinancing needs of the country this could change in 2019.