The Frankfurt-based European Central Bank (ECB) is unwinding its bond-buying programme but will not end its expansionary policy immediately as reinvestment is still occurring.
The Eurozone’s decelerating growth has spooked investors who wondering whether the announced end to the ECB’s bond-buying programme has been timed well. In the third quarter of 2018, Germany saw the sharpest GDP slowdown since 2015, with the economy growing at an anaemic 0.2%.
Pressure is mounting with Italy desperately needing to service the biggest debt among the G7 economies amid decelerating growth and pressure to rein in its budget deficit. France, which has endured violent street protests by a movement known as the Yellow Vests, is under mounting social pressure to increase public spending.
ECB President Mario Draghi appears confident that the third-quarter dip in growth has been caused by a series of one-off events, meaning a rebound is inevitable. As a result, the ECB will continue to buy €15 billion a month through the end of the year.
While confident, the ECB is not preparing the market for a shock after having accumulated €2.6 trillion in government and corporate bonds. This stock will remain on the ECB’s balance sheets as interest payments from maturing bonds will be reinvested in sovereign bonds “for an extended period of time.”
The ECB will actually invest €190 billion into bonds in the first 11 months of 2019, which will act as a much-needed cushion once the withdrawal of €20 billion a month in cheap liquidity sets in. For corporate and sovereign bond-buying, this means that few will notice the end of quantitative easing for more than a year after the programme has wound down.
Interest rates are expected to remain subdued in the Eurozone at least through the summer of 2019 and beyond, of economic growth continues to decelerate. At the moment, the central bank’s main refinancing rate benchmarks stand at zero, while the deposit rate stands at minus 0.4%.
If economic deceleration persists, adding to deflationary pressure, the bank could unveil a fresh round of asset-buying that would not more “targeted” in scope.