The eurozone is currently suffering its biggest slowdown in half a decade, with Mr Draghi suggesting growth had shifted to the downside due to a slowdown in China’s economy and political uncertainty from Brexit. Despite citing risks to the economy, Mr Draghi said he would not be changing monetary policy at present, citing the strength of the region’s labour market and rising wage growth, which he said would help push underlying inflation up over the medium term. The bank left guidance and interest rates unchanged at its meeting on Thursday. Mr Draghi said: ”The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook have moved to the downside on account of the persistence of uncertainties.

“The near-term growth momentum is likely to be weaker than previously expected.

”The key factor to assess is the persistence of the uncertainty.

“The Governing Council will give itself more time to assess whether all these risk factors have affected confidence and we are going to have another discussion in March when we will also have the new (growth) projections.”

Mr Draghi said the Governing Council was unanimous both in acknowledging the growth slowdown and the factors causing it.

On whether the ECB could provide new loans to banks, called Long-Term Refinancing Operations or LTROs, he said those had been raised by several policymakers but that no decision was taken.

The bank ended a landmark 2.6 trillion euro ($3 trillion) bond purchase scheme just weeks ago.

The four-year-long quantitive easing scheme programme had seen the ECB top up eurozone cash supply by purchasing millions of euros worth of assets each month.

The amount of assets bought each month was reduced in September to €15billion from €30billion as the scheme began to wind down.

The ECB said it still expected to keep interest rates at record lows “through” the summer, sticking with its long-standing guidance even though markets now see a much later move.

Germany, France and Italy, the eurozone’s biggest economies, barely grew in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, survey data showed on Thursday business activity across the euro zone expanded at the slowest pace since 2013 at the start of this year.

Mr Draghi said on Thursday that the ECB did not see recessions as likely in Germany or Italy.

source: express.co.uk

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