By The Associated Press
Below is the full text of the statement that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi delivered at his press conference on Thursday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice-President and I are very pleased to welcome you to our press conference. Let me wish you all a Happy New Year. We will now report on the outcome of today's meeting of the Governing Council.
Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. HICP inflation rates have declined over recent months, as anticipated, and are expected to fall below 2 percent this year. Over the policy-relevant horizon, inflationary pressures should remain contained. The underlying pace of monetary expansion continues to be subdued. Inflation expectations for the euro area remain firmly anchored in line with our aim of maintaining inflation rates below, but close to, 2 percent over the medium term. The economic weakness in the euro area is expected to extend into 2013. In particular, necessary balance sheet adjustments in financial and non-financial sectors and persistent uncertainty will continue to weigh on economic activity. Later in 2013 economic activity should gradually recover. In particular, our accommodative monetary policy stance, together with significantly improved financial market confidence and reduced fragmentation, should work its way through to the economy, and global demand should strengthen. In order to sustain confidence, it is essential for governments to reduce further both fiscal and structural imbalances and to proceed with financial sector restructuring.Let me now explain our assessment in greater detail, starting with the economic analysis. Following a contraction of 0.2 percent, quarter on quarter, in the second quarter of 2012, euro area real GDP declined by 0.1 percent in the third quarter. Available statistics and survey indicators continue to signal further weakness in activity, which is expected to extend into this year, reflecting the adverse impact on domestic expenditure of weak consumer and investor sentiment and subdued foreign demand. However, more recently several conjunctural indicators have broadly stabilised, albeit at low levels, and financial market confidence has improved significantly. Later in 2013 a gradual recovery should start, as our accommodative monetary policy stance, the significant improvement in financial market confidence and reduced fragmentation work their way through to private domestic expenditure, and a strengthening of foreign demand should support export growth.