Against our expectations, the ECB adjusted its forward guidance and announced an offer of new TLTROs at
today’s meeting rather than delaying the decision until Q2. In terms of interest rate guidance, the
Governing Council now expects rates to stay on hold “at least through the end of 2019”, this effectively
pushes out the timing of the first rate rise by three months relative to what the ECB previously
indicated; but there is nothing particularly controversial in this statement. More surprisingly, the ECB
jumped the gun and announced that it will offer new TLTROs from September. The details around this offer,
however, are vague and leave some important questions unanswered.
What we find puzzling, however, is that the ECB, despite Draghi’s apparent dovishness today, has not
fundamentally changed its view on the outlook for the euro area economy. As expected, 2019 GDP growth was
cut to 1.1%, but the 2020 forecast stayed almost unchanged at 1.6%. Translating this into quarterly
growth figures, the ECB is still pencilling-in euro area growth to return to trend from the second half
of this year, and to remain there through 2020.
To sum up, today’s meeting left us confused:
we think there was little reason for the ECB to rush into making any policy changes before June. But even
ignoring the timing of the TLTRO announcement, we found the ECB’s general tone much more downbeat than is
justified by its own forecasts. The ECB thinks that euro area growth is due to accelerate in the coming
quarters, with unemployment set to fall faster despite a very weak finish to 2018; and yet, the markets
walk away from the press conference seemingly entirely focused on the negative news, with the timing of
the first rate-rise pushed out almost into 2021.
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