The ECB acknowledges that the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a major shock to the growth prospects of the global and euro area economies and has heightened market volatility. Even if ultimately temporary in nature, it will have a significant impact on economic activity. In particular, it will slow down production as a result of disrupted supply chains and reduce domestic and foreign demand, especially through the adverse impact of the necessary containment measures. In addition, the heightened uncertainty negatively affects expenditure plans and their financing.

The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook are clearly on the downside. In addition to the previously identified risks related to geopolitical factors, rising protectionism and vulnerabilities in emerging markets, the spread of the coronavirus adds a new and substantial source of downside risk to the growth outlook. The implications of the coronavirus for inflation are surrounded by high uncertainty, given that downward pressures linked to weaker demand may be offset by upward pressures related to supply disruptions. The recent sharp decline in oil prices poses significant downside risks to the short-term inflation outlook.

The ECB has taken extraordinary measures (but not lowering interest rates further) in an effort to support households and firms in the face of the current economic disruptions and heightened uncertainty. Accordingly, the ECB decided on a comprehensive package of monetary policy measures. Together with the substantial monetary policy stimulus already in place, these measures will support liquidity and funding conditions for households, businesses and banks and will help to preserve the smooth provision of credit to the real economy.

Please click here for a comparison of the prepared press conference remarks for the March 12 meeting as compared to the January 23, 2020 meeting.