Mario Draghi said the European Central Bank’s current stimulus settings reflect a recovering economy that isn’t yet strong enough to stand on its own, and warned that now is not the time to dismantle post-crisis financial regulation.
“Our December decisions” show “our growing confidence that the euro area’s economic prospects are firming up, ” the president said at a hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, echoing his comments at a press conference on Jan. 19. “At the same time, the lack of a clear sign of sustained convergence of inflation rates toward the desired level” is taken into account.
Even as inflation in the 19-nation euro area jumped around the turn of the year, reaching a close-to-target 1.8 percent in January, the ECB’s view is that current gains are largely driven by energy prices and don’t warrant a discussion about tightening monetary policy yet. The ECB will trim its bond-buying program to 60 billion euros ($64 billion) per month in April from 80 billion euros a month currently, and it intends at this stage to let it run at that pace until the end of the year.
As other policy makers have done, Draghi argued that while the economy is currently performing well — economic sentiment is at the highest in five years and unemployment is falling to single digits — it still isn’t strong enough to stand alone. Euro-area output has been “solid” in every quarter since 2015, Draghi said, averaging 1.9 percent in annualized terms.
The euro was little changed as Draghi spoke, trading at $1.0730 at 3:55 p.m. in Frankfurt.
“Support from our monetary policy measures is still needed if inflation rates are to converge toward our objective with sufficient confidence and in a sustained manner,” Draghi said. “Financing conditions have to remain supportive, taking remaining uncertainties inside and outside the euro area into account.”
The ECB president warned against a rollback of financial regulations designed since the financial crisis to prevent instability. Responding to lawmaker questions, he said that the need for rules was particularly acute in a time when major central banks have largely accommodative policies. U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered a sweeping review of the post-crisis rules in the so-called Dodd-Frank act, arguing regulation is choking credit to the economy.
“The last thing we need at this point in time is a relaxation in regulation,” Draghi said. “The idea of repeating the conditions that were in place before the crisis is something that is very worrisome.”