Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice-President and I are very pleased to welcome you to our press conference today. We will now report on the outcome of today’s meeting of the Governing Council, which was also attended by Commissioner Almunia.
Based on its regular economic and monetary analyses, the Governing Council decided to leave the key ECB interest rates unchanged. The current rates remain appropriate. Taking into account all the information and analyses that have become available since our meeting on 5 November 2009, price developments are expected to remain subdued over the policy-relevant horizon. The latest information also confirms the expected improvement in economic activity in the second half of this year, with euro area real GDP growth returning to positive territory in the third quarter of 2009.
However, some of the factors supporting the recovery at present are of a temporary nature. The Governing Council expects the euro area economy to grow at a moderate pace in 2010, recognising that the recovery process is likely to be uneven and that the outlook remains subject to high uncertainty. The outcome of the monetary analysis confirms the assessment of low inflationary pressure over the medium term, as money and credit growth continues to slow down. All in all, we expect price stability to be maintained over the medium term, thereby supporting the purchasing power of euro area households. Medium to longer-term inflation expectations remain firmly anchored in line with the Governing Council’s aim of keeping inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.
At today’s meeting we also decided to continue conducting our main refinancing operations (MROs) as fixed rate tender procedures with full allotment for as long as is needed – and at least until the third maintenance period of 2010 ends on 13 April. We will continue to use this tender procedure in our special-term refinancing operations with a maturity of one maintenance period, which will continue for at least the first three maintenance periods of 2010. Moreover, we decided that the rate in the last 12-month longer-term refinancing operation, to be allotted on 16 December 2009, will be fixed at the average minimum bid rate of the MROs over the life of this operation. Finally, as regards longer-term refinancing operations in the first quarter of 2010, we decided to carry out the last six-month longer-term refinancing operation on 31 March 2010. This operation will be carried out using a full allotment fixed rate tender procedure, as will the regular monthly three-month longer-term refinancing operations already announced for the first quarter of 2010.
Further operational details on these decisions can be found in a press release that will be posted on our website after this press conference.