ECB President Mario Draghi suggested the era of negative eurozone rates won't end any time soon as he vowed to maintain a "very substantial degree of monetary accommodation" to fan the embers of inflation.
In a speech to the European Banking Congress, Draghi noted that GDP growth in the block is now above its pre-credit crisis level, with growth "moderate, but steady" and the region's economic crisis becoming "more broad-based."
However, he said it was necessary to ask whether the factors behind the recovery are "sufficient to deliver a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation."
He noted that a "sustained adjustment in the path of inflation still relies on the continuation of the current, unprecedented financing conditions.
"It is for this reason that we remain committed to preserving the very substantial degree of monetary accommodation, which is necessary to secure a sustained convergence of inflation towards level below, but close to, 2% over the medium-term," he added.
Eurozone inflation edged up to 0.5% in October, a near-two-year high, from 0.4%, according to European Union data out on Thursday. That's still way behind the ECB's target, however.
Draghi's comments point to an extension of the ECB's bond buying program at its meeting on Dec. 8 and suggest banks will have to contend with negative rates for longer. The ECB cut its deposit rate by quarter of a point to minus 0.4% in March. It trimmed the repo rate by 5 basis points to zero and the marginal lending rate by the same amount to 0.25%.
Bankers have been highly critical of ECB policy and Draghi was speaking at an event where he will rub shoulders with Deutsche Bank (DB) CEO John Cryan and Commerzbank chairman Martin Zielke.
In a conciliatory comments directed at bankers worried that so-called Basel IV capital proposals will make life even tougher, Draghi said it is "time to finalize the regulatory agenda and enter a period of stability."
"The focus should be on implementation, not on new design. Regulatory measures should be implemented in a balanced way that ensures a level playing-field globally," he said. "And while marginal adjustments are possible, there should be no rolling back on what has been decided."
But he also called for structural reform of the banking sector, including cost cuts, rationalization and consolidation.
Banking "inefficiencies may have been exposed by the low interest rate environment, but they have certainly not been created by it."
He added, "Where the legacy stock of NPLs is depressing profitability, key is to create an environment where the resolution of bad loans can be accelerated."
The euro was down 0.31% against the dollar, with one euro buying $1.0593.
The Stoxx 600 was recently up 0.22% at 341.37.