Turmoil in Europe’s financial markets could delay a rise in inflation further, European Central Bank Executive Board Member Benoit Coeure told a German newspaper on Saturday. Factors like lower oil prices and slowing global growth have compounded the problem, Coeure told Rheinische Post in an interview.
The ECB had launched a 1 trillion euro ($1.13 trillion) asset-buying program in January last year, as its key monetary policy tool to boost near-zero inflation. The ECB has maintained that it aims at inflation rates of below, but close to, 2 percent over the medium term.
“If that (market volatility) continues for too long, it can also increase the risk of a rise in inflation being delayed,” Coeure said.
Earlier in February the European Commission trimmed its 2016 growth forecast for the 19-nation bloc and warned that inflation was averaging just 0.5 percent this year, half the pace forecast in November and far below ECB’s 2 percent goal.
“With the assumed path of energy prices, inflation should remain very low in the first half of this year,” European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici forecast in February. “It should then rise slightly in the second half when the impact from the past sharp falls in oil prices abates”.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, when asked about the state of European banks, Coeure said banks are facing low profitability and some are struggling with a high level of non-performing loans, a legacy of the Europe's economic crisis. But they are also more resilient than in the past, thanks to years of capital increases.
“None of these challenges are new: they have been clearly identified, they require forceful action and they will be solved over time,” Coeure said Saturday. Eurozone banks have shed about 30 percent of market value since the start of the year, according to Reuters.
Coeure indicated that ECB’s monetary policy could be expanded, including key interest rates and size of stimulus packages, in order to reach its inflation goals. “If necessary, we stand ready to use all of the instruments at our disposal,” he said.