ECB leaves key interest rates untouched

Draghi again urges countries to help out fiscally, with the spotlight put on Germany...

The European Central Bank (ECB) has revealed that interest rates will remain unchanged and forecast that they will remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time.

Further cuts could come in due course to try and stir eurozone growth and inflation out of its stupour.

Today's announcement means the ECB's main refinancing rate is static at exactly zero and its deposit rate sits at -0.4%, as it continues to charge banks for holding money.

The ECB has also decided to continue its quantitative easing (QE) programme, which will see it buy €80bn of assets a month until March 2017 ("or beyond, if necessary").

Interest rates in the eurozone were slashed to historic lows in March, as the ECB launched an ambitious programme in an attempt to jumpstart growth.

As with today, no further changes were implemented at the ECB's last policy meeting in July.

With the eurozone's GDP up 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter and growth set to continue in the third, ECB President Mario Draghi said:

"Looking ahead, we continue to expect the economic recovery to proceed at a steady rate."

While he did unveil a modest downgrade in forecasts, owing much to Brexit uncertainty, Draghi said no action was currently needed:

"For the time being, the changes are not substantial to warrant a decision to act. We see that our monetary policy is effective."

Draghi confirmed that an extension of the QE programme had not even been discussed at the meeting, causing stock markets in the region to fall. The euro hit a two-week high and bond yields across the eurozone rose.

As has been his wont at recent press conferences, Draghi turned his attention to the region's governments and the role they have to play in stimulating growth and inflation.

Calling on structural reform efforts to be "substantially stepped up", he said:

"Fiscal policies should also support the economic recovery".

Draghi called a suggestion that much higher wages in Germany were needed to cut the current account surplus and help other countries sell goods to German consumers "absolutely right".

Of government spending, he said:

"Countries who have fiscal space should use it. Germany has fiscal space."