We don’t expect any major policy announcement on Thursday’s ECB meeting. The ECB took a series of initiatives at its May meeting.
Introducing more measures would be difficult to justify at this stage. The underlying situation didn’t change. The new ECB staff projections, on which we will briefly comment below, won’t show substantial revisions in growth, even if the 2013 inflation forecast is downwardly adjusted. However, we believe that two items will make the press conference afterwards interesting: facilitating lending to small and medium sized firms (SME’s) and the issue of a negative deposit rate. Discussions on these issues will allow Mr. Draghi to show that the ECB has some bullets left to use if needed. Whether this will have an important impact on markets is unlikely, as the focus will be on Friday’s release of the May US payrolls report.
Summary conclusions May meeting:
At their May meeting, the ECB made a lot of decisions, which taken together, certainly exceeded market expectations. The ECB and Mr. Draghi apparently were afraid to disappoint markets. The cut of the refi-rate by 25 basis points to 0.50% was widely expected, but at his press conference, Mr. Draghi struck a more dovish tone than could have been envisaged. He suggested that the ECB would be willing to ease policy further if economic condition warranted such decision. This easing would most likely come through a further reduction of rates, even if that would take the ECB deposit rate into the largely uncharted territory of negative values.
Other takeaways concerned liquidity, fiscal policy and lending to SME’s. To keep away any doubts that liquidity concerns would prevent banks from financing firms and households, the ECB prolonged the period in which ECB liquidity is procured under the full allotment/fixed rate procedure to mid 2014. On fiscal policy, Mario Draghi struck a conciliatory tone in relation to the prospect of some pullback in the degree of fiscal austerity in the euro area. Rather than exhorting speedy and sweeping budget actionas the ECB has consistently done in the past, Mr Draghi argued that countries ‘should not unravel their efforts to reduce general budget deficits’. On SME lending, Mr. Draghi suggested that no dramatic support initiatives should be expected.