Below is the full text of the statement that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi delivered at his press conference on Thursday.
‘‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice-President and I are very pleased to welcome you to our press conference. Let me wish you all a Happy New Year. We will now report on the outcome of today’s meeting of the Governing Council.
Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. HICP inflation rates have declined over recent months, as anticipated, and are expected to fall below 2 percent this year. Over the policy-relevant horizon, inflationary pressures should remain contained. The underlying pace of monetary expansion continues to be subdued. Inflation expectations for the euro area remain firmly anchored in line with our aim of maintaining inflation rates below, but close to, 2 percent over the medium term. The economic weakness in the euro area is expected to extend into 2013. In particular, necessary balance sheet adjustments in financial and non-financial sectors and persistent uncertainty will continue to weigh on economic activity. Later in 2013 economic activity should gradually recover. In particular, our accommodative monetary policy stance, together with significantly improved financial market confidence and reduced fragmentation, should work its way through to the economy, and global demand should strengthen. In order to sustain confidence, it is essential for governments to reduce further both fiscal and structural imbalances and to proceed with financial sector restructuring.
Let me now explain our assessment in greater detail, starting with the economic analysis. Following a contraction of 0.2 percent, quarter on quarter, in the second quarter of 2012, euro area real GDP declined by 0.1 percent in the third quarter. Available statistics and survey indicators continue to signal further weakness in activity, which is expected to extend into this year, reflecting the adverse impact on domestic expenditure of weak consumer and investor sentiment and subdued foreign demand. However, more recently several conjunctural indicators have broadly stabilised, albeit at low levels, and financial market confidence has improved significantly. Later in 2013 a gradual recovery should start, as our accommodative monetary policy stance, the significant improvement in financial market confidence and reduced fragmentation work their way through to private domestic expenditure, and a strengthening of foreign demand should support export growth.
The risks surrounding the economic outlook for the euro area remain on the downside. They are mainly related to slow implementation of structural reforms in the euro area, geopolitical issues and imbalances in major industrialised countries. These factors have the potential to dampen sentiment for longer than currently assumed and delay further the recovery of private investment, employment and consumption.
According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, euro area annual HICP inflation was 2.2 percent in December 2012, unchanged from November and down from 2.5 percent in October and 2.6 percent in August and September. On the basis of current futures prices for oil, inflation rates are expected to decline further to below 2 percent this year. Over the policy-relevant horizon, in an environment of weak economic activity in the euro area and well-anchored long-term inflation expectations, underlying price pressures should remain contained.
Risks to the outlook for price developments are seen as broadly balanced over the medium term, with downside risks stemming from weaker economic activity and upside risks relating to higher administered prices and indirect taxes, as well as higher oil prices.
Turning to the monetary analysis, the underlying pace of monetary expansion continues to be subdued. The annual growth rate of M3 remained broadly unchanged at 3.8 percent in November 2012, after 3.9 percent in October. M3 growth continued to be driven by a preference for liquid assets, as M1 growth increased further to 6.7 percent in November, from 6.5 percent in October, reflecting inflows into overnight deposits from households and non-financial corporations. Following our non-standard monetary policy measures and action by other policy-makers, a broadly based strengthening in the deposit base of MFIs in a number of stressed countries was observed. This allowed several MFIs to reduce further their reliance on Eurosystem funding and helped to reduce segmentation in financial markets. M3 growth was also supported by an inflow of capital into the euro area, as reflected in the strong increase in the net external asset position of MFIs.Continued...