The Latest: ECB did not discuss sudden end to stimulus

Markets Associated Press

The Latest on the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting (all times local):

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3:30 p.m.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi says the bank's governing council "never discussed" whether the current bond-buying stimulus program would come to a sudden stop when the time comes to end it.

The purchases will be cut to 30 billion euros ($35 billion) from 60 billion euros in January and extended through September, and longer if needed. A gradual reduction after that could extend the duration of the stimulus.

Draghi had previous indicated a sudden stop was unlikely but on Thursday would not be drawn. "We haven't discussed that," he said during a question and answer session with journalists.

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3:20 p.m.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi says the bank is "closely monitoring" financial stability risks that could stem from a long period of low interest rates.

Asked Thursday if he was concerned about financial bubbles, or unsustainable price rises, he said that "the ground is fertile" for those risks but there were no "systemic" concerns. He said there were "local spots where valuations appear to be stretched." He added that it was reassuring that leverage — or investment backed by debt — was not increasing in the 19-country eurozone.

Draghi spoke after the ECB kept its key interest rates and stimulus programs on hold.

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3:05 p.m.

European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the economic upswing is "stronger in Europe than the United States" but that the ECB is still far from raising interest rates as the Fed has done.

Draghi said the European expansion was in an earlier phase and still needs monetary support despite strong growth of 2.6 percent annually in the third quarter. The Fed raised its key rate by a quarter point Wednesday.

Draghi is also stressing that bank officials want to keep the bond-buying stimulus "open-ended." The bank has said it will cut the purchases to 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a month from 60 billion euros starting in January and will continue them until September, or longer if necessary to ensure inflation rises toward the goal of just under 2 percent. Some bank officials have suggested in recent day the purchases could stop in September.

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2:55 p.m.

European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the bank's revised inflation forecast "goes in the right direction." But he didn't say whether the 1.7 percent estimate for 2020 would mean the bank had achieved its goal of just under 2 percent.

He said the bank's governing council had "increasing confidence" that inflation was turning up. The bank has struggled to raise inflation toward its goal, using low interest rates and bond purchases.

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2:50 p.m.

The European Central Bank has raised its forecast for growth and inflation as the eurozone enjoys an economic upswing.

The bank raised its forecast for growth next year to 2.3 percent from 1.3 percent in the last set of forecasts issued in September.

The inflation outlook was raised to 1.4 percent for next year from 1.2 percent. But the first forecast for 2020 came in at 1.7 percent, lower than some analysts had expected.

The bank's goal for inflation is close to but below 2 percent. The bank has struggled to achieve that despite setting interest rates at record lows and pushing newly printed money into the financial system though bond purchases.

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1:50 p.m.

The European Central Bank has left its interest rates and stimulus measures unchanged as it looks ahead to the delicate matter of ending its bond-purchase program next year.

Investors are now waiting for President Mario Draghi's news conference Thursday for clues about when and how the bond stimulus might end. The bank decided in October to reduce the purchases to 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a month from 60 billion euros and to extend them at least until September, or longer if necessary.

The ECB has tried to reassure markets that its stimulus will be withdrawn slowly to not disrupt the economy.

The bank's governing council left its key benchmark for lending to banks at zero. The rate on deposits it takes from commercial banks remained at minus 0.4 percent.

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