ECB president Mario Draghi acknowledged that there was some difference of opinion over the strength of the eurozone’s economic recovery within the governing council this month, but he said there was “unanimity” over the central bank’s belief that risks are “still tilted to the downside”.
Mr Draghi said “some members had a more sanguine view on the economic situation”, while “others believed that such improvements would not warrant any change in communication as far as the balance of risks are concerned”.
In the end, the council agreed to maintain its message that negative risks to the economic outlook remain, though it added that these risks are “related predominantly to global factors”, not weakness within domestic economies.
The euro, which briefly popped higher after Mr Draghi stressed the eurozone’s “increasingly solid” recovery during his opening comments, fell back to a decline for the day against the dollar during the president’s press conference, particularly after the central bank president doused speculation over the manner in which the ECB might end its monetary stimulus.
I do not think there is any need to discuss this now. We are not sufficiently confident that inflation will converge with our [target] in a consistent manner.
Mr Draghi also dismissed questioning on the potential impact of a victory for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential election, noting that “we don’t do monetary policy based on likely election outcomes”.
James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, said the signs of debate within the governing council made for “a pretty confusing and conflicting performance” from Mr Draghi, but said there were enough signs of positivity to believe the ECB may shift its outlook in June:
He’s had to acknowledge that the growth outlook has improved and the risks to the outlook are more balanced without following that through to the inflation outlook. This is confusing the market and so it is whipping around as traders hang on every word.
There’s enough from today to suggest that we might see a material change in policy in June. But no one should get ahead of themselves. There’s clearly not enough consensus on the governing council to allow Mr Draghi to give an assured performance today.