Draghi Faced Nowotny Plea to Discuss ECB Policy

European Central Bank leaves interest rate unchanged, despite slowing of EU economic growth

Draghi was expected to face particularly probing questions about reports that the German government expected the USA to impose tariffs on European metals imports - potentially sparking a transatlantic trade war that could undermine growth and inflation.

He said it could be that the exceptionally strong growth of previous year is returning to a more normal pace and that the bank would have to study incoming data more.

The Governing Council, led by ECB President Mario Draghi, left the key interest rates unchanged after the policy session in Frankfurt, in line with economists' expectations.

Money-market pricing suggests investors expect the European Central Bank to deliver a rate hike by June 2019, having pushed back expectations from early next year.

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At the time of writing, EUR/USD had fallen to 1.2124 from a pre-meeting level of 1.2175 and the Pound-to-Euro exchange rate had risen to 1.1510 from 1.1480 prior to the meeting.

- In the U.S., economic data releases have continued to be strong overall and the tax cuts along with other potential fiscal stimulus measures are likely to provide further support for economic growth this year.

If growth slows significantly, the central bank could face pressure to extend its 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in bond purchases.

Having tweaked its guidance last month to reflect solid growth, Mr Draghi argued the economy is humming along and that the exceptional growth readings seen around the turn of the year were never expected to be sustained.

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Concerns about protectionist threats, geopolitical risks and global trade tension have added to doubts about the strength of the eurozone recovery. Weather, strikes, the timing of Easter and more factors are behind this moderation.

"This moderation may in part reflect a fall back from the high pace of growth observed at the end of previous year, while temporary factors may also be at work".

The betting is that the bank will put off such clues until the June 14 or July 26 meetings.

The bank's latest analysis was focused on the recent public finance data from the Office for National Statistics, with interpretations suggesting that the low government borrowing could make the Bank of England (BoE) more confident in raising interest rates this year. The U.S. economy has moved ahead faster and the Fed's benchmark rate is now 1.5 percent, compared to zero for the European Central Bank. Although Draghi had an air of confidence, he stated that policymakers remained "cautious" regarding the fluctuating data from the first part of the year. The aim is to push them to lend the money instead. Zero interest rates help companies borrow, increasing economic activity and helping reduce unemployment.

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