Draghi commments see euro claw back losses after ECB rate shock

Irish bond yields also climbing back from initial declines

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has surprised the markets. Photograph: Reuters

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has surprised the markets. Photograph: Reuters


The euro whipsawed on Thursday as major new stimulus measures by the European Central Bank were offset by a signal from ECB chief Mario Draghi that it will only cut interest rates again in the most extreme of circumstances.

Markets had initially roared their approval as the ECB cut its rates to fresh record lows and said it would start buying corporate debt for the first time and effectively begin paying banks to borrow from it to lend to companies and households.

Shares jumped 2.5 per cent, euro zone bonds rallied and the euro initially dropped over a cent to $1.0820, but the mood turned as Draghi signalled years of interest rate cuts may finally be at an end.

‘Low, very low’

“Rates will stay low, very low, for a long period of time and well past the horizon of our purchases,” Mr Draghi said, referring to the bank’s asset purchase programme, which is due to end in March 2017.

But “from today’s perspective and taking into account the support of our measures to growth and inflation, we don’t anticipate that it will be necessary to reduce rates further.”

The euro was yanked up 3 cents to a three-week high of over $1.1125.

European shares erased most of their gains too as Wall Street’s main markets also struggled to stay in positive territory in New York.

In Dublin, the Iseq was down 1.3 per cent.

“Pretty much the key thing was that Draghi drew a line under further rate cuts,” said head of European Currency Strategy at TD Securities Ned Rumpeltin, noting that it was the biggest move in the euro since the ECB’s December meeting.

“That was a very clear broadcast and will be the final takeaway for people today.”

Bond markets

Bond markets were also buffeted by Mr Draghi’s mixed signals. Short-term bond yields were set for their biggest daily rise in three months having initially fallen, and though Italian and Spanish bonds saw their yields nod lower, money market rates rose as investors significantly reduced bets on further rate cuts this year. Irish 10-year bond yields rose to 0.944 per cent after initially falling below 0.8 per cent.

Oil prices, the sharp fall in which over the last 1-1/2 years has been one of the key drivers for the slump in inflation, were also starting to backslide again. Benchmark Brent futures were back to $40 a barrel, US crude was last at $37.50 and safe-haven gold climbed to $1,264 an ounce.