ECB maintains elevated pace of bond purchases

Business

The European Central Bank said on Thursday it would continue to run its emergency bond purchases at a higher pace than at the beginning of the year, fearing that any retreat could sharply raise borrowing costs and smother a long delayed recovery.

Just emerging from a pandemic-induced double-dip recession, the euro zone economy has relied on unprecedented ECB stimulus and policymakers have made clear that they would rather err on the side of caution when clawing back accommodation.

“The Governing Council expects net purchases under the PEPP over the coming quarter to continue to be conducted at a significantly higher pace than during the first months of the year,” the ECB said in a statement.

The ECB has bought around 80 billion euros worth of debt per month under its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme this quarter, up from levels early this year but below their peak at the start of the crisis.

Maintaining its long-standing guidance, the ECB said that its 1.85 trillion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) would last until March 2022 and it reserved the right to buy less than this quota or increase it as needed to “maintain favourable financing conditions”.

“The envelope can be recalibrated if required to maintain favourable financing conditions to help counter the negative pandemic shock to the path of inflation,” the ECB said.

With Thursday’s decision, the ECB’s deposit rate, its benchmark, remains at minus 0.5% and the ECB maintained its guidance that it would hold or cut this rate until inflation “robustly” converges with target.

Attention now turns to ECB chief Christine Lagarde’s 1230 GMT news conference, during which she will also unveil fresh economic projections.