E.C.B. Expected to Step Closer to Ending Stimulus Program

E.C.B. Expected to Step Closer to Ending Stimulus Program


The betting was that bank officials would wait and see, because the eurozone economy has lately been sending out distress signals. But the central bankers cannot wait too long. Inflation has been rising toward the bank’s official target of 2 percent. By law, the European Central Bank’s main task is to keep inflation under control.

The first step, before raising interest rates, would be to end the bond buying.

Either way, Mr. Draghi is likely to give some flavor of the discussion when he holds a news conference in Riga after the Governing Council meeting. The central bank has said it will continue buying bonds at least through September, but left open when the program would stop.

Analysts expect the quantitative easing to end toward the end of the year. Then, probably around the middle of 2019, the European Central Bank would begin raising its main benchmark interest rate, which is currently zero.

Slowing Growth, Increasing Uncertainty

After booming in 2017, growth in the eurozone has slowed in recent months, and every day seems to bring fresh warnings that all is not well. On Wednesday, for example, the European Union statistics agency said industrial production in the eurozone fell 0.9 percent in April.

European businesses are confused and unsettled by President Trump’s war of words on longtime allies like Germany and Canada and his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. At the same time, Italy is in the grip of populism and Britain is struggling to work out terms of its divorce with the European Union.

The uncertainty is making businesses reluctant to invest, and causing growth to slow.

“There is a psychological effect,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, the chief executive of ABB, a company based in Zurich that supplies equipment for power grids.

“If you go to the Middle East, there is uncertainty; if you go to Asia, there is uncertainty; if you look at Europe, there is uncertainty; and then you go to Washington and there is uncertainty,” Mr. Spiesshofer said. “We have to deal with all of it.”



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