ECB Stuns Markets, Announces Tapering Of Bond Purchases To €60 Billion

That Reuters trial balloon was right.

In an unexpected, to the conesnsus, announcement, Mario Draghi turned hawkish after all, and while the ECB kept all rates unchanged, it announced that it would effectively taper its bond purchases from €80 billion to €60 billion starting in April 2017 until the end of the year: "From April 2017, the net asset purchases are intended to continue at a monthly pace of €60 billion until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim."

However, the ECB hedged, and also added that "if the outlook becomes less favourable or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment of the path of inflation, the Governing Council intends to increase the programme in terms of size and/or duration."

So tapering, but conditional on the market not falling apart; should risk return, the ECB will return to the familiar program of €80 billion per month, or more.

Additionally the ECB suggested that it will address bond scarcity and expand the scope of eligible bonds, saying that "to ensure the continued smooth implementation of the Eurosystem’s asset purchases, the Governing Council decided to change some of the parameters of the APP, which will be communicated at today’s press conference and in a separate press release."

Full press release:

Monetary Policy Decisions

 

At today’s meeting the Governing Council of the ECB decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.40% respectively. The Governing Council continues to expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases.

 

Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council decided to continue its purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the current monthly pace of €80 billion until the end of March 2017. From April 2017, the net asset purchases are intended to continue at a monthly pace of €60 billion until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim. If, in the meantime, the outlook becomes less favourable or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment of the path of inflation, the Governing Council intends to increase the programme in terms of size and/or duration. The net purchases will be made alongside reinvestments of the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the APP.

 

To ensure the continued smooth implementation of the Eurosystem’s asset purchases, the Governing Council decided to change some of the parameters of the APP, which will be communicated at today’s press conference and in a separate press release.

 

The President of the ECB will comment on the considerations underlying these decisions at a press conference starting at 14:30 CET today.

More when Draghi speaks in 45 minutes.