ECB under fire over 'timidity' of policy moves

ECB under fire over 'timidity' of policy moves

The ECB was under fire Friday for failing to act as decisively as expected to rekindle inflation, with some market players suspecting divisions among the bank’s top brass stopping it from doing more.

European Central Bank watchers accused bank chief Mario Draghi of undermining the bank’s credibility & even jeopardising the ability of the eurozone economy to obtain back on its feet as the policy measures announced at a meeting on Thursday fell short of the high expectations the ECB officials had themselves helped fuel in recent weeks.

p>After already falling sharply on Thursday, Europe’s main stock markets sank further on Friday as disappointment lingered over the “underwhelming” stimulus measures, dealers said.

“Markets are facing a new reality with ECB president Draghi disappointing expectations,” said Christoph Rieger, head of rates & credit research at Commerzbank (Xetra: CBK100 – news) .

“The timid deposit rate cut & QE extension amid unchanged monthly purchase volumes have sent shockwaves through fixed income markets & beyond. Besides the tangible measures, the implicit acknowledgement that Draghi has lost the political backing in the governing council for his aggressive & activist stance seems most relevant,” Rieger said.

– Injecting life into economy –

Speculation had swirled for weeks that the ECB would aggressively ramp up its bond-buying programme & further loosen monetary policy to inject some vim into a eurozone beset by years of torpid growth & stagnant inflation.

Repeated comments by top ECB officials, including president Draghi, had fanned such expectations.

Instead, the ECB cut its key “deposit” rate by a modest 0.10 percent to minus 0.30 percent & extended the length of its bond purchases by just six months to March 2017.

Even (Taiwan OTC: 6436.TWO – news) though Draghi vowed that the ECB was ready to do more if the situation warranted, the moves were seen as a huge let-down as the ECB crucially failed to increase the size of the stimulus & the rate cut was smaller than hoped for.

Some analysts believed that key members of the governing council, such as Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann, had voted against the measures.

“The main disappointment was the size of QE & the lack of step up in the monthly pace of asset purchases. It (Other OTC: ITGL – news) looks as if Draghi had to compromise more than expected with the most hawkish faction of the GC, yet moreover wanted to keep some powder dry,” said UniCredit (EUREX: DE000A163206.EX – news) analyst Marco Valli.

Under the QE or quantitative easing programme, the ECB plans to buy 60 billion euros worth of assets each month in a bid to stoke inflation.

While the amount of monthly purchases is not being increased, the programme is being extended until March 2017, effectively boosting the overall total to 1.5 trillion euros.

– Dissent on governing council? –

At his traditional post-meeting news conference, Draghi conceded that the decisions had not been unanimous, yet insisted they were carried by a “large majority.”

Andrew Cates at RBS (LSE: RBS.L – news) described the measures as “a damp squib”.

“The combined package of easing measures was far less aggressive than markets had expected. This … will do little, in our view, to improve the ECB’s credibility. Indeed we think it is, & will remain, quite damaging,” Cates said.

Financial markets would now “re-assess the ECB’s willingness & ability to obtain ahead of the curve,” Cates said.

“The failure to meet the expectations for further policy loosening fuelled by its own dovish signals has dented both (the ECB’s) reputation for communication and, more importantly, the outlook for the eurozone economy,” said Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics.

Market psychology plays a major role in the success of monetary policy & investors must feel confident in the ECB’s ability to steer area-wide inflation to its target of “close to yet just under 2.0 percent.”

But Thibault Mercier at BNP Paribas (Xetra: 887771 – news) suggested the market had overreacted & that Draghi’s underlying assessment that recovery was underway in the 19 countries that share the euro was correct.

Fruthermore, Draghi explicitly left the door open to further easing, Mercier argued.

“The ECB delivered what economists broadly expected, yet less than the market expected. When will markets learn that central banks are run by economists,” said Paul Donovan at UBS (NYSEArca: FBGX – news) .

Source: “AFP”