The European Central Bank kept its main refinancing rate unchanged at a record low of 1.0 percent on Thursday, as expected by economists.

Markets are now turning their attention to President Jean-Claude Trichet's news conference at 1230 GMT, when he will explain the decision and may sound a slightly more upbeat tone on prospects for a return to economic growth.

The ECB also kept its overnight deposit rate, which acts as a floor for money markets, at 0.25 percent and left its marginal lending rate at 1.75 percent.

All 75 economists in a Reuters poll expected the ECB to leave rates on hold.

The ECB has lowered its rates from 4.25 percent since October after the financial crisis wreaked havoc in the euro zone economy and inflation risks have subsided.

Euro zone consumer prices are falling and the economy is still shrinking, although some recent data has shown improvement.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; editing by David Stamp)