Introductory statement to the press conference

Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB,
Lucas Papademos, Vice President of the ECB,
1 April 2004

With the transcript of the questions and answers

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome again to our press conference.

Before I proceed, I would like to remind you that I have conveyed the Governing Council’s sincere condolences to Jaime Caruana, Governor of the Banco de España, following the terrorist attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004. I assured him of the Governing Council’s total solidarity with the Spanish people and the Banco de España.

The Vice-President and I will now report on the outcome of today’s meeting of the Governing Council of the ECB.

On the basis of our regular economic and monetary analysis, we have not changed our assessment that the current stance of monetary policy remains in line with the maintenance of price stability over the medium term. Accordingly, the key ECB interest rates have been left unchanged. The low level of interest rates also provides ongoing support to the economic recovery in the euro area. We will continue to monitor carefully all developments that could affect our assessment of risks to price stability over the medium term.

Let me now provide a more detailed explanation of our decision, turning first to the economic analysis. With regard to real GDP growth, it appears that the recovery in the euro area has continued into 2004, following quarter-on-quarter growth rates of 0.3-0.4% in the second half of 2003. Recently released data on production and demand as well as confidence indicators have been mixed, implying some short-term uncertainty, while preliminary information available after the tragic events in Madrid on 11 March does not suggest a major impact on confidence. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. On balance, there is currently no evidence challenging the assessment of continued, though modest, real GDP growth in the euro area over the short term.

More fundamentally, the conditions remain in place for the recovery to continue in 2004 and to strengthen over time. First, global economic growth is robust and broadly based, both geographically and across sectors, thereby providing a positive external environment for the euro area. In this context, we expect euro area exports to grow significantly this year and next, despite some past losses in price competitiveness.

Second, on the domestic side, investment should be helped by favourable financing conditions, an improvement in corporate earnings and spillover effects from global demand trends. Some signs of an improvement in fixed capital investment are already discernible in the Eurostat data for the fourth quarter of last year. As regards private consumption, growth in real disposable income should lead to increased spending, in particular because there are no financial constraints for households which would pose obstacles to higher expenditure. Over time this should also be fostered by an improvement in employment and employment expectations.

This is our assessment and it is supported by the available forecasts and projections. Obviously, any such forward-looking evaluation is conditional and subject to risks. At this juncture, risks are primarily related to the persistent imbalances in some regions of the world and the weakness of private consumption in the euro area. Concerning private consumption, European citizens who still perceive that inflation is higher than measured by official indices should be assured that the official measures are accurate and that we will continue to maintain price stability in the future. Moreover, the prevailing uncertainties surrounding fiscal policies and structural reforms in some euro area countries may have had a negative impact on consumer sentiment. Ensuring clarity about the content and timing of these reforms and a better understanding of their benefits to all citizens would make a very important contribution to supporting household confidence.

Turning to price developments, we expect some short-term volatility in HICP inflation rates to continue. According to Eurostat’s flash estimate, annual inflation in the HICP was 1.6% in March, unchanged from February and down from 1.9% in January. However, over the coming months, annual inflation rates could edge up again, on account of less favourable base effects and increases in indirect taxes.

Looking beyond these short-term fluctuations, we expect price developments to remain in line with price stability. Given the anticipated gradual pace of the economic recovery, wage developments should remain moderate. The latest data on wage growth in the fourth quarter of 2003 lend support to this view. Moreover, the past appreciation of the euro exchange rate will continue to alleviate import price pressures and dampen the inflationary impact of higher oil and commodity prices, which are also related to strong demand at the global level

Again, this outlook for price developments is in line with available forecasts and projections. Given their conditional nature, we will continue to monitor all indicators closely. In particular, the increase in commodity prices and the evolution of long-term inflation expectations deserve close attention.

Turning to the monetary analysis, annual M3 growth has been moderating since the summer of 2003, though only slowly. At the same time, the growth of loans to the private sector has been edging up. Both monetary and credit growth seem to be supported by the low level of interest rates prevailing in the euro area and may also reflect the improvement in the economic environment since the summer of 2003.

Given the strong M3 growth over the past few years, there is currently more liquidity in the euro area than is needed to finance non-inflationary growth. The effects of this high liquidity on inflation over the medium term will greatly depend on future developments in the economy and financial markets. Should excess liquidity persist, it could lead to inflationary pressures over the medium term.

To conclude, the economic analysis continues to indicate that the outlook for price developments in the medium term is in line with price stability. Cross-checking with the monetary analysis does not alter this picture.

Let me also make a few remarks on other policies in the euro area. With regard to fiscal policies, the Governing Council sees continued reasons for concern. Recent information indicates that significant imbalances are emerging in a growing number of countries and that current policies would not be sufficient to attain the consolidation objectives specified in the latest stability programmes. We strongly urge governments to take corrective action in a timely and sustained fashion, where and when necessary.

Finally, with regard to structural reforms, the Governing Council welcomed the Presidency conclusions of last weekend’s Brussels European Council. Structural reforms are necessary to meet the Lisbon challenge and thus reap the benefits of higher sustainable growth and employment. As pointed out by the European Council, the pace of reform needs to be significantly stepped up and the critical issue now is the need for better implementation of commitments already made. Ending the political uncertainty and delays surrounding the implementation of sustainable fiscal policies and effective structural reforms would indeed support private sector confidence, which would add momentum to the economic recovery in the euro area, given the supportive stance of monetary policy.

We are now at your disposal for questions.

Transcript of the questions asked and the answers given by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB, and Lucas Papademos, Vice-President of the ECB

Question: Mr. President, how important or permanent a risk to recovery and gradual recovery is the rising oil price and the decision to cut production? And then a second question: next month you will meet in Helsinki. What kind of expectations do you have for that meeting?

Trichet: Well, on the first point, I would say that, as we do every month, we have of course looked at all the elements that are pertinent to our overall analysis. We have, and we had, to take account of the price of oil and it is perfectly clear that any increase in the price of oil creates a problem as regards price stability and inflation. And it also has an impact on the global recovery. So I would not elaborate more on that. But that is pretty clear, pretty clear for us, and pretty clear for all observers. As regards the future Helsinki meeting, I cannot say anything in advance, but I am looking forward to being in Helsinki. It will be a great pleasure to be there and I expect the best to come out of the meeting we will have there. I’m sure it will be very well organised by the central bank of Finland.

Question: As you know, the Italian government is planning to introduce new rules for the protection of savings. I would like to know if you have been asked for your opinion about these new rules. What do you think about them and when will you give an official opinion on this topic?

Trichet: We are presently looking at it. We have not yet expressed an opinion but we will do that. And I have to say at this stage that we are actively working on it. But I cannot give you any particular sentiment on behalf of the Governing Council. So, we work and we will give our opinion as soon as possible.

Question: Mr Trichet, it is quite obvious that we are at record lows for interest rates at the moment and maybe monetary policy can do only so much and politicians should do more. But were there any compelling reasons why you must not cut interest rates now?

Trichet: The analysis that I have just presented on behalf of the Governing Council is very clear. We have an analysis of the balance of risks to price stability, which leads us to the conclusion that the present level of interest rates is the kind of level which ensures price stability. Let’s not forget that the “magnetic north” on our compass is price stability. It is always this balance of risks to price stability that we are weighing. We are, of course, incorporating all elements that are pertinent. And among those elements there are a lot of data, figures, surveys, hard data, and so forth that are coming from the real economy. I mentioned that they were in some respects mixed but, overall, we believe that they do not lead us to change our overall assessment of the gradual recovery. And you know as well as we do what the various indicators are. We even had a new one this morning. And all this, put together, leads us to the conclusion that our working assumption of a gradual recovery is the appropriate diagnosis at the present moment. And, of course, we remain very alert and incorporate any new information that we can have, as we do month after month, according to our concept of monetary policy, which is, again, to ensure price stability.

Question: Are you aware that the political setbacks of the French government or even the German government might impact on the will for more structural reforms? And, second question, could you explain or could you help me understand the difference between “in line” and “appropriate”? And one last question: how would you describe the atmosphere today? Was it a lively debate?

Trichet: On the first question I will only say that, on the necessity of structural reforms, there is an overall agreement in Europe. Of course, an agreement of the EU Council, which just reiterated this commitment and this diagnosis. And, as you know, we have welcomed this position of the Council at the level of Heads of State and Government. We have said, from the very beginning, that structural reforms were, in our view, extraordinarily important. And we trust that it is the position of the Commission, so that there is unanimity – unanimity of governments, unanimity of institutions. That being said, we have to explain, tirelessly, why every citizen of Europe would be better off with the reforms that are needed. And we have tried ourselves to help as best we can. And I firmly believe that it is very important to be as convincing as possible in explaining how our economy works and why we would be better off in all respects – growth, job creation, prosperity. As regards the atmosphere, we conduct a very, very profound analysis of the situation every month. And I believe that it is important for you to know that. We conduct a full examination of the situation through our own grid of analysis – namely, what is the balance of risks to price stability, incorporating all elements. I have already mentioned that we were as comprehensive as possible. And we feel very much akin to those central banks that want to incorporate all possible elements. That being said, we take a decision, and we explain the decision. And we are, in that respect, the most transparent institution in the world. After this very comprehensive and lively discussion every month we are able to deliver our analysis in real time and to explain. As regards the position that we have expressed, we believed that it was necessary to explain even more explicitly what our policy diagnosis was, and I quote – as it has been analysed very carefully – “on the basis of our regular economic and monetary analysis, we have not changed our assessment that the current stance of monetary policy remains in line with the maintenance of price stability over the medium term”. I think it is important to say that. And it states exactly what our present analysis is.

Question: What is the difference to “appropriate”?

Trichet: “Appropriate” is shorter. What I just said is longer and more explanatory. But do not believe that the previous “appropriate” would mean no change in the future, in the many months to come, for a very long period of time. It was not our intention to say that. We look at the situation month after month, on the basis of a concept of monetary policy which is known to everybody, on the concept of a yard stick – our definition of price stability – which is known to yourself and the entire world. Our concept of monetary policy is as public as it can be.

sound problem for technical reasons

Trichet: … we took note of the commitment of France, we took note of the commitment of the majority of the Council, which has said very clearly that it would activate the sequencing for sanctions in the event that these commitments were not met. We have said that the Pact should not be changed. Nobody is calling for a change in the Treaty. We said that the secondary legislation, namely the Stability and Growth Pact, itself enshrined in the secondary legislation, should not be changed. And we said that we believed that we could improve the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact without changing the wording. Along different lines, which I do not want to elaborate on too much: more structural analysis, more understanding of what is necessary in the period of fat cats and affluent episodes in the economic cycle. That is our position. We are not changing our position. And today we reiterated our position that we were urging governments to take corrective action in a timely and sustained fashion, wherever and whenever necessary. And this, of course, deals with the particular cases you have been mentioning.

Question: I have two questions. First, according to what the statistical office of the Netherlands published yesterday, the 3% threshold deficit for GDP will be broken for last year and this year. Now that the procedures against Germany and France have been frozen, what will be done in the case of the Netherlands? Should they benefit from a similar freeze, or should they go through the normal procedure? Second, the Finance Ministers of the European Union are going to discuss European candidates for the IMF. I was wondering if the ECB has been asked for an opinion or if you with the other Governors will discuss it with the Finance Ministers in Punchestown, Kildare.

Trichet: On the first point I would only say that in the view of the Governing Council of the ECB, both the Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact have to be applied to all. Therefore we maintain our position. I have no comment other than to refer to what I have just said on our position. This is valid for all of the current 15 Member States and for all newcomers. As regards the IMF, we have not been asked. As you know, and as the Vice-President has said, we give advice as regards our own board members, as we did today. I have no comment on what could be done in the case you mention since it is the responsibility of the executive branches to reflect on this particular question.

Question: First, I was wondering whether all of the members of the Governing Council agreed that there is no need to lower borrowing costs. And second, what do you think the ECB can do right now to boost consumer confidence and growth more generally in Europe?

Trichet: Again, what we do is analyse, as comprehensively as possible, every month – as we did this month – the overall situation. We have to assess the balance of risks to price stability, which is the magnetic north of our compass. This analysis is carried out according to a concept of monetary policy which is crystal clear and has been clarified and explained and is, I trust, very well understood by European and global observers. By ensuring and being credible that we are correctly assessing this balance of risks, we contribute massively to helping Europe, because we give credit to the very low market rates that we are currently delivering. The rates would not be as low as they are if risk premia were incorporated to take account of inflationary expectations over and above our definition of price stability. So it is a way of helping Europe considerably. Another way of helping Europe is to ensure that we are credible in preserving purchasing power of the consumers. There are a number of other channels described in the textbooks that explain why price stability is a necessary condition for growth and job creation. I insist on these two channels because they are very much the focus of our attention today. Again, as I have said, we look at it every month on the basis of the full body of information available and we analyse this balance of risks. If the balance of risks changes, we can change – depending on the decision of the Governing Council – our own monetary policy stance. We could raise or lower rates, depending on this very comprehensive analysis. What I call the magnetic north of our compass is, per se, a means to help growth in Europe – and a very important one. I do not want to go back to what I have already said about the fact that the yield curve of the euro is today the most favourable yield curve compared with the situation in the euro area before the euro was set up. In itself, that is a major contribution to the overall prosperity of Europe. Again, we have a lot of information, some arriving even this morning, all of which is taken into account.

Question: Mr Trichet, some analysts were thinking after what you and other Governing Council members said last week that the ECB had slightly changed its tune, and when I listen to you today I don’t hear you say that rates are appropriate and I don’t hear that the risks are balanced any more. So, is it true that you have changed your tune and have you just become slightly more worried than a month ago?

Trichet: I wouldn’t say that. When I look at the overall sentiment of the Governing Council, I think that we are in exactly the same mood. We look at the situation with a view to weighing the risks. The fact that we did not say “appropriate” this time should not be over-interpreted. We wanted to be as clear as possible about our present analysis, and that is the reason why we were more explicit. But the fact that we said it was appropriate a month ago did not mean that a month ago – and I have to say this because it is important that our dialogue is as clear as possible – we were excluding anything in the months to come. It was not the case. We reserve the right to analyse the situation at each of our meetings. And as we said, we have mixed signals, it’s very clear that we have mixed signals. Some are pointing in the direction of a more active recovery. Others are pointing in the other direction. We have to work out our diagnosis on the basis of all these signals. The idea that we would forget about the signals, the indications, the surveys and the hard data transmitted to us and stick to a predefined position is wrong. We look at all that, and we draw the appropriate conclusions. We did so in our previous meeting, and we did so in today’s meeting in the same fashion. Again, we are more explicit and I hope that you understand perhaps a little bit better what our permanent attitude is, which is that we have a magnetic north in our compass and incorporate all the information that comes in, to the extent, of course, that it is pertinent and informative.

Question: To what extent has the appreciation of the euro against the dollar affected your decision this time?

Trichet: Again, I already said that we have no particular equation that would trigger our decisions. We have no particular system of equations. We have no algorithm. So, the exchange rates are one of the many inputs that we have in our overall analysis. For obvious reasons, because it has an impact on inflation to come, because it has an impact on a variety of economic indicators that are of extreme importance. So, we incorporate that as well as all the other elements. But there is no mechanistic reaction. We do not mechanistically react to an exchange rate evolution, as we do not mechanistically react to a fiscal position evolution or to any other evolution, such as oil prices and so forth. We incorporate that into this comprehensive analysis that we make and it is on the basis of the final sentiment we have after taking into account absolutely everything that we take our decision. We took into account, of course, the developments observed in the exchange rate as part of this very comprehensive analysis.

Question: Could you clarify the absence of the word 'appropriate'. In the past you used that to signal something and I am trying to understand whether you are abandoning this practice of using the word 'appropriate' or whether you are sticking with the past practice of the use of the word 'appropriate'? And then, my other question is: you have talked about the balance of risks to price stability over the medium term. On the whole, are they perfectly balanced or are they tilted in one direction or the other?

Trichet: First question: I have already explained that we wanted to be as clear as possible. I do not know how you yourself are interpreting the word 'appropriate'. I do not know. We said 'appropriate' when interest rates were appropriate because that was the case. But it seems to me that perhaps you are exaggerating the semantic meaning. What we wanted to communicate was clearly that the overall monetary policy stance was in line with what we deem good, useful, 'appropriate' if you want, and we did not express through the word 'appropriate' the sentiment that we would not change our monetary policy decision over the months to come. Perhaps it was something felt by a part of the market, but it was not what we intended to communicate. So there is nothing – in my opinion – which can be described as a fundamental change in our overall diagnosis. Our overall diagnosis is that today the situation does not call for a change in our interest rate and we will see during the next meetings whether or not there is information that would call for any change – in any direction. And now I come to the second part of your question. Taking into account all the new information we have had since the last meeting, including the most recent information that we had, we consider the situation to be balanced. We do not signal a bias. You know that we were never in favour of signalling any bias; that is part of our overall communication with markets. I have to say very clearly, we have no particular bias but we can change, and one has to understand that we can change on the basis of objective information that we receive. We would explain candidly – as transparently as possible – our monetary policy. And again, to elaborate a little more: since our last meeting, we have had – as I said – mixed signals. Some were pointing downwards, others were pointing upwards.

Question: Two questions. One question has to do with the staff forecasts and whether they have been revised in view of the disappointing consumer demand data, for example, in the past month or two. The second question has to do with the interpretations of remarks that you made, for example, in the Handelsblatt interview last week, a response that you made to a question concerning consumer demand was widely interpreted - I am sure you are aware - as sending a signal. I am curious what you think when you read this kind of interpretation and whether you feel they bear any relation to reality or not?

Trichet: Well, I take your second question first. As you might have seen in the diagnosis that I read a moment ago, we mention consumption and consumer confidence and we mention a number of elements that might explain why it is not as robust and dynamic as would probably be the case if we had a recovery which were less gradual. So it is important for us to explain how we understand what is going on. There are a number of reasons. We mention those reasons and I do not want to elaborate again on that. One of the reasons which might depend more on us is that consumers in Europe feel that their purchasing power is hampered, because they have a perceived inflation higher than real inflation. To them, and only for the part of the consumption which might be hampered by this sentiment, to them we say: we are there to be the good guardian of the currency. We do all we can to preserve your purchasing power. It is legitimate for us to say this because we are obviously – according to the Treaty – the guardian of price stability. We have the figures in front of us, you have the figures in front of you. We trust that a part of consumer confidence is linked to confidence in the preservation of purchasing power. This is really part of consumer confidence. What was your other question?

Question: The other question was about: what do you think when you read interpretations such as the ones related to the interview last week? It was widely interpreted as signalling a bias in favour of lower rates.

Trichet: I can see that we have a lot of nice interpretations that we are changing our monetary policy stance. You read them. I read them. Each and every month we incorporate all the new information. And those who think that we do not incorporate this information and do not analyse the situation every month are wrong. It is clearly what we do. That being said, the best contribution we can make to the recovery in Europe is to be the anchor of price stability, because being the anchor of price stability permits very low market interest rates, and permits an improvement in the confidence of consumers and reassures them that their purchasing power will be protected. These are the two channels through which we can help. If the balance of risks to price stability were to change, then we would change our own monetary policy stance. I cannot say anything else. I am explaining. It is not for me to re-interpret the interpretation. It is really exactly how we see things. We have a “magnetic north” in our compass. We are not blind. We are not deaf. We incorporate everything and we would change our monetary policy stance upwards or downwards on the basis of this balance of risks analysis.

Question: The first part of my question was about the changes in staff projections based on the most recent data.

Trichet: I will not comment on that. We are looking at absolutely all information which is available and, as I said, we did not change our analysis today.

Question: I just have a quick question on the sentence about the Madrid bombings. You say that the preliminary evidence suggests that it did not have a major effect on uncertainty. I am just wondering whether you could elaborate, was there a discernible effect at all and also, is there further information that could yet come out that could change your assessment of the long-term effect of Madrid?

Trichet: We said exactly what we believe on the basis, again, of our present analysis. Namely that we do not see at the present moment anything suggesting a significant impact. We do not exclude the possibility that such an impact could come, so we have again, in this domain as well as in others, to remain ready to incorporate any new information. But until now, and this is of course something which is reassuring, based upon all the information which is available right now, we do not see a significant impact on confidence. This was confirmed again this morning.

Question: One question, after your interview last week with the Handelsblatt, some members of the ECB were signalling that there were growing risks on growth. Were they wrong?

Trichet: Every member of the Governing Council who has expressed their views has been very balanced when you look at the full body of what they have said. Of course, from time to time, for reasons that I can explain to myself very well, you might have an amplification of one sentence and the reverse attitude for other sentences. So I do not want to elaborate more on that. I know that the full body of the Governing Council is thinking exactly what I said. We have our magnetic north. We take all the information, and again, there have been waves of information. Perhaps the overall environment has been quite negative at a certain moment, more positive at another moment, which is understandable, because it is a gradual recovery and we have mixed signals. But again, the overall sentiment of the full body of the Governing Council is very clear. At the present moment, we do not modify our working assumption of a gradual recovery and we consider that nothing goes against this overall, taking all figures, data, surveys and hard figures into account, and so we do not change our vision. It is important for you to know that we do not change our vision, because it means that the situation, in our view – and after this very comprehensive analysis – is a situation of gradual recovery.

Question: It’s been commented on before that consumer demand is very difficult to stimulate in the structure of the European economy from the point of view of interest rates. I was wondering if the fact that you are leaving your assessment of balanced risks in place, not changing the stance and yet highlighting the issue of weak consumer demand means that you’ve recognised you are actually not able to do anything about it, that it is not in the hands of the ECB to affect, that it is really up to the governments and that your policy mechanisms don’t let you reach in there and cause it to pick up. Is this a recognition that you have come to?

Trichet: It is even more than that. And I thank you very much for that question because it is an important one. We do not fine-tune the economy. We do not reason as though we would like to speed up any part of the economy with a view to monitoring the output. We have a magnetic north, which is price stability. We believe that through price stability we can help to considerably improve the situation, the economic situation of Europe. I explained to you that through price stability we can improve sentiment among consumers because we can preserve their purchasing power. And that is a way to help – but through price stability. The balance of risks I am referring to is always a balance of risks to price stability, which is the ultimate decision-making step. All the other elements contribute to this balance; they include of course aggregate demand, which is a major element that we have to incorporate into this balance of risks. But again, we do not fine-tune the economy. If we were to fine-tune the economy, then it would be legitimate for global observers to think that we were more or less abandoning our magnetic north. And if we were abandoning our magnetic north, then risk premia would appear and we would have higher, not lower, interest rates. So, it is something which is extremely important to understand. We try to be as comprehensive and to understand as much as possible, and we go then through our own balance of risks. It is clear if aggregate demand is much stronger or weaker, then the balance of risks to price stability changes and we are legitimate in changing our interest rates, whether it is up or down. But it is through that grid, though that sequencing of analysis.

Question: Mr President, I trust that in the first paragraph of your analysis, where you describe your stance, that you refer to your mandate, which is maintaining price stability, and you say your stance is in line with that. And then you seem to refer to the second part of the mandate, i.e. to support other policies if price stability is ensured. You seem to say that rates are low enough and that nothing more can be done. Is that right?

Trichet: You ask me to reiterate all that I have already said. So, I hesitate a little bit. We the ECB, we the Governing Council of the ECB, the Treaty itself and all the people of Europe who have ratified the Treaty, we all believe that price stability is a necessary condition for growth and job creation. That is absolutely clear. We stressed that we believe our present stance of policy is exactly in line with that goal, and we note that it is obviously helping, because we have the lowest interest rates in 50 years. That is undeniable. We have abundant liquidity in Europe, it is undeniable. It does not mean that we cannot change this policy stance if we have new information and if the balance of risks to price stability changes. And as I said, we could go up or we could go down. We are not blocked. But what we mean is that it has to go through the grid of the balance of risks to price stability, taking everything into account, as clearly as possible.

Question: You referred to the low level of interest rates supporting the economy, and not price stability supporting the economy. That’s why I asked that question.

Trichet: Price stability is supporting the economy. If we have a low level of interest rates, it is not due to a random behaviour of markets; it is because we were skilful enough to pass on the best yield curve available in the euro area before the euro, to the euro.

Question: So it is not key interest rates, it is capital market rates you are referring to.

Trichet: I refer to all rates. All rates are historically low. So it is not my fault, it is not the fault of the Vice-President and not the fault of colleagues. All rates are at their lowest. But again, I explained the situation sufficiently. I trust that it is understood.

Question: Mr President can you help me to understand the cross-checking of your economic and monetary analysis? The economic analysis: you have a potential rate which has not been reached, i.e. the growth rate is below the potential rate. The inflation rate is below but not near to 2%. This economic analysis would support speculation on a rate cut. Second, monetary analysis: you remarked that in the last two years excessive liquidity has built up. But this will also be a vote against a rate cut in the next few months. Is my interpretation correct?

Trichet: Again, I explain that we were in a position to analyse the situation as comprehensively as possible. To go back to what you said: it is clear that we are below potential, absolutely clear. It is also clear that we have the lowest interest rates since the Second World War. Moreover, it is clear that today we have a flash estimate which puts the level of HICP in the euro area at 1.6%. It is also clear, as you noted, that I said that we knew we would perhaps have a hump in the HICP in the months to come. We have warned you in advance of that: you remember we said last month, and even the month before, that there would be a hump because of a base effect and a number of phenomena such as indirect taxation. One has to know that. One has also to know that we do not look at prices in retrospect but in a more longer perspective starting around two years time. But we also pay a lot of attention to longer-term expectations of inflation, because our commitment is not only for the short-medium term – meaning around two years – but also the longer term. We have rates on the financial markets in Europe that are two, five, ten years and 30 years – even more than 30 years. And if the yield curve is the favourable yield curve that you know, it is because we are credible over a much longer period. Cross-checking with the monetary analysis is extremely important to permit us to have a longer-term view. We do not want necessarily to modify policy on a short-term basis because of what we are observing. And we explained why, despite the fact that there is very abundant liquidity, it does not drive us to consider that we have to change the balance of risks to price stability. But the fact that we cross-check with the monetary analysis on a longer-term perspective, we believe, ensures a better anchoring of long-term expectations for inflation. In our monetary policy concept, we believe that this cross-checking is very important. Therefore, I will not draw the conclusion that you drew. As you see, it is a more complex analysis.

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