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The ECB's monetary policy strategy

8 May 2003

After more than four years of conducting monetary policy for the euro area, the Governing Council of the ECB has undertaken a thorough evaluation of the ECB's monetary policy strategy.

This strategy, which was announced on 13 October 1998, consists of three main elements: a quantitative definition of price stability, a prominent role for money in the assessment of risks to price stability, and a broadly based assessment of the outlook for price developments.

More than four years of implementation have worked satisfactorily. Nevertheless, the Governing Council deemed it useful to evaluate the strategy in the light of this experience, taking into account the public debate and a series of studies undertaken by staff of the Eurosystem.

"Price stability is defined as a year-on-year increase in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the euro area of below 2%. Price stability is to be maintained over the medium term." Today, the Governing Council confirmed this definition (which it announced in 1998). At the same time, the Governing Council agreed that in the pursuit of price stability it will aim to maintain inflation rates close to 2% over the medium term. This clarification underlines the ECB's commitment to provide a sufficient safety margin to guard against the risks of deflation. It also addresses the issue of the possible presence of a measurement bias in the HICP and the implications of inflation differentials within the euro area.

The Governing Council confirmed that its monetary policy decisions will continue to be based on a comprehensive analysis of the risks to price stability. Over time, analysis under both pillars of the monetary policy strategy has been deepened and extended. This practice will be continued. However, the Governing Council wishes to clarify communication on the cross-checking of information in coming to its unified overall judgement on the risks to price stability.

To this end, the introductory statement of the President will henceforth follow a new structure. It will start with the economic analysis to identify short to medium-term risks to price stability. As in the past, this will include an analysis of shocks hitting the euro area economy and projections of key macroeconomic variables.

The monetary analysis will then follow to assess medium to long-term trends in inflation in view of the close relationship between money and prices over extended horizons. As in the past, monetary analysis will take into account developments in a wide range of monetary indicators including M3, its components and counterparts, notably credit, and various measures of excess liquidity.

This new structure of the introductory statement will better illustrate that these two perspectives offer complementary analytical frameworks to support the Governing Council's overall assessment of risks to price stability. In this respect, the monetary analysis mainly serves as a means of cross-checking, from a medium to long-term perspective, the short to medium-term indications coming from economic analysis.

To underscore the longer-term nature of the reference value for monetary growth as a benchmark for the assessment of monetary developments, the Governing Council also decided to no longer conduct a review of the reference value on an annual basis. However, it will continue to assess the underlying conditions and assumptions.

The ECB will today publish on its website a number of background studies prepared by its staff which, together with papers published earlier, served as input into the Governing Council's reflections on the ECB's monetary policy strategy.


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