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The ECB Press Conference: “Independence Fears”

Written by A Forex View From Afar on Thursday, June 04, 2009

At the ECB press conference, the central bank updated its forecasts for 2009 and 2010. According to the ECB’s staff projections, the economy will contract a whopping -5.1%, to -4.1% in 2009, much worse than the previous projections, released in March, which expected the economic activity to contract between -3.2% and -2.2%. The 2010 growth projections were also revised lower, from -0.7% to 0.7% in March, to the current forecast of -1.0% and 0.4%.”

“Inflation expectations were left mainly unchanged at the current ECB staff projections report. TheLFB Trade Team said. “The ECB expects CPI inflation to range between 0.1% and 0.5% in 2009, but to pick up a stronger pace in the 2010, ranging between 0.6% and 1.4%.”

“Overall, Mr. Trichet press conference was more bullish than usual, and said for the first time that the pace of contraction is easing in the global economy. However, Mr. Trichet also warned that growth is expected to pick up only in 2010 (and thus the poor 2009 GDP projections) when asked about the recent green shots in the financial markets. Except for this, the introductory statement did not provide any new information.”

“The Q&A session had two main themes: the new covered bond buying program and the recent comments made by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Additionally, from time to time Mr. Trichet received questions about the fate of the Baltic economies, mainly Latvia.”

“The President of the ECB refused to give away too many details on most questions, mostly providing partial answers and most of the time dodging the essential of the inquiry. About the new asset buying program, Mr. Trichet said that the program’s size is 60 billion euros, and does not want to provide any additional information.”

“However, when asked about Angela Merkel’s recent comments, in which she complained about the decisions taken by the Fed, BoE and mainly by the ECB, Mr. Trichet said only that he had a conference call with Germany’s Chancellor in which she assured that the bank’s “fears independence” is not at risk in any way. In the following few questions, Mr. Trichet only reiterated this answer that the bank’s independence is not at risk.”

In the forex market, the major currencies plunged compared with the dollar after the ECB’s interest rate decision. As Mr. Trichet provided his statement, the euro retraced earlier declines, but then started to move lower once again. For now, the currency market appears to be looking for a solid anchoring point.

• The Governing Council decided to leave the key ECB interest rates unchanged at 1%
• The current key ECB interest rates are appropriate taking into account the decisions of early May, including the enhanced credit support measures, and the information and analyses which have become available since
• Economic activity weakened considerably in the first quarter of 2009. Economic activity in the euro area contracted by 2.5% quarter-on-quarter, after a decline of 1.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008
• Activity over the remainder of this year is expected to decline at much less negative rates. After a stabilization phase, positive quarterly growth rates are expected by mid-2010
• The risks to the economic outlook are balanced
• On the positive side, there may be stronger than anticipated effects stemming from the extensive macroeconomic stimulus under way and from other policy measures recently taken
• Confidence may also improve more quickly than currently expected
• On the other hand, a stronger impact on the real economy from the turmoil in financial markets, more unfavorable developments in labor markets, the intensification of protectionist pressures and, finally, adverse developments in the world economy stemming from a disorderly correction of global imbalances, may impact the outlook
• With regard to price developments, annual HICP inflation was, according to Eurostat’s flash estimate, 0.0% in May, compared with 0.6% in April
• Annual inflation rates are projected to decline further, and temporarily remain negative over the coming months, before returning to positive territory by the end of 2009. Such short-term movements are, however, not relevant from a monetary policy perspective
• Any threat to price stability over the medium to longer term can be effectively countered in a timely fashion
• As has been emphasized many times, the Governing Council will continue to ensure a firm anchoring of medium-term inflation expectations
• The latest data confirm the continued deceleration in the pace of underlying monetary expansion and thus support the assessment of moderate inflationary pressures
• In April, the annual growth rate of M3 declined further to 4.9% and that of loans to the private sector to 2.4%
• The latest developments in M3 components continue to reflect to a large extent the impact of past reductions in key ECB interest rates.
• Regarding fiscal policies, the latest projections by the European Commission point to a sharp increase in the euro area. The deficit ratio is projected to rise to 5.3% of GDP in 2009 and further to 6.5% in 2010, from 1.9% in 2008, with the debt ratio exceeding 80% of GDP in 2010

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