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. 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 further, as anticipated, and fell below 2 percent in February. 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. Overall, this will allow our monetary policy stance to remain accommodative. Available data continue to signal that economic weakness in the euro area has extended into the beginning of the year, while broadly confirming signs of stabilisation in a number of indicators, albeit at low levels. At the same time, necessary balance sheet adjustments in the public and private sectors will continue to weigh on economic activity. Later in 2013 economic activity should gradually recover, supported by a strengthening of global demand and our accommodative monetary policy stance. In order to support confidence, it is essential for governments to continue implementing structural reforms, to build further on the progress made in fiscal consolidation, and to proceed with financial sector restructuring.
With regard to the liquidity situation of banks, counterparties have so far repaid â¿¬224.8 billion of the â¿¬1,018.7 billion obtained in the two three-year longer-term refinancing operations (LTROs) settled in December 2011 and March 2012. In net terms, this implies that, of the increase in the outstanding volume of bank refinancing through the ECB's monetary policy operations of around â¿¬500 billion between mid-December 2011 and early March 2012, about â¿¬200 billion have now been repaid. These repayments reflect improvements in financial market confidence over the last few months and receding financial market fragmentation. We are closely monitoring conditions in the money market and their potential impact on the stance of monetary policy and the functioning of the transmission of our monetary policy to the economy. Our monetary policy stance will remain accommodative with the full allotment mode of liquidity provision.