NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Declines accelerated on U.S. stock markets mid-morning Thursday as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi remained vague on timing of further quantitative easing plans and after the ECB slashed growth prospects for the eurozone.
"Early next year the Governing Council will reassess the monetary stimulus achieved, the expansion of the balance sheet and the outlook for price developments," Draghi said in a speech.
However, easing plans could come as soon as January, said Anthony Valeri, investment strategist for LPL Financial. "[Draghi's] comments really laid the groundwork for some a QE program to be announced in January," Valeri said in a call.
"Lowering the growth expectations, lowering inflation forecast, some of the cautionary comments he made all suggest that QE is coming. It's been telegraphed in prior meetings but this was the latest and probably strongest voice supporting outright bond purchases."
The central bank cut its 2015 growth forecasts for the region to 1% from a September forecast of 1.6%. Eurozone inflation is expected to come in at 0.7%, down from a previous estimate of 1.1% and far from the ECB's 2% target.
The ECB announced earlier Thursday that it was leaving its key rate unchanged at 0.05%. The ECB, convening for its final meeting of the year, by and large wasn't expected to introduce new stimulus measures. Last month, the central bank announced it had begun to purchase asset-backed securities in a move to stimulate the eurozone, which has suffered from slowing manufacturing and high unemployment.