ECB Hasn't Discussed Halting Easy Monetary Policy, Says Key Board Member

By Todd Buell Features Dow Jones Newswires

The European Central Bank hasn't discussed making changes to its monetary policy, a key member of its executive board said, underscoring the central bank's patient approach to normalizing its expansionary programs.

Continue Reading Below

"The Governing Council has not been discussing changes in our monetary policy that may come in the future," Benoît Coeuré said at a news briefing Wednesday.

Mr. Coeuré also played down recent financial market volatility that was partly sparked by comments from ECB President Mario Draghi that were viewed as an indication of a coming policy change.

"I don't think these kind of market reactions that we've seen last week are very significant in the big picture," Mr. Coeuré said.

Markets whipsawed last week after Mr. Draghi said the central bank would start winding down its bond-buying program as the eurozone's economy accelerates. But his speech was laced with caution and other ECB officials have suggested investors overreacted to his comments.

Speaking in Rome on Tuesday, the ECB's chief economist Peter Praet said the eurozone economy was strengthening, but "underlying price pressures continue to be subdued." The inflation rate in the 19-country bloc slid to 1.3% in June, some way below the ECB's target of just below 2%.

Continue Reading Below

The central bank is due to continue buying EUR60 billion ($68 billion) a month in mostly government bonds until the end of 2017. Thereafter, most economists expect it to gradually reduce its monthly purchases and are looking closely at statements from central bankers for clues to that effect.

The ECB also said Wednesday that the use of the euro as a funding currency in international debt markets fell in 2016 and early 2017, but the share of the currency in foreign-exchange reserves grew slightly.

"The euro remains by far the second-most important international currency," Mr. Coeuré said.

In June, the ECB said it had switched EUR500 million of its foreign-currency reserves into yuan from U.S. dollars, marking the central bank's first investment in the Chinese currency.

Mr. Coeuré suggested the ECB was open to increasing the volume of yuan in its portfolio at a later date.

"I would expect that if it's a success, then we buy more," he said.

--Tom Fairless contributed to this article.

Write to Todd Buell at todd.buell@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 05, 2017 05:36 ET (09:36 GMT)