The euro jumped higher against the U.S. dollar Thursday after the European Central Bank dropped language that suggested it could extend its controversial quantitative easing program even as it kept its key rates and the pace of monthly bond purchases unchanged.
The ECB made not changes to its refinancing rate, the benchmark for borrowing costs in the Eurozone, and held the monthly pace of its €2.55 trillion QE program, which is due to expire in September, unchanged at €30 billion. However, the Bank removed previous language in its statement suggesting that "if the outlook becomes less favorable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent" with respect to its aim of an inflation rate that sits just below 2%, "the Governing Council stands ready" to either increase the size and pace of its QE program.
"This change is largely cosmetic," said HSBC economist Fabio Balboni. "The market was not expecting any increase in the pace of QE between now and September anyway. It does, however, partly answer the concerns raised by some ECB Governing Council members recently, that the forward guidance had become slightly out of touch with the strength of the real economy and therefore lacked credibility."
"So there is little implication for our view of ECB monetary policy going forward," he added. "We continue to see little reason for the ECB to make more fundamental changes to forward guidance before an announcement on the future of QE is made (likely in June, in our view)."
The euro was rose to as high as 1.2431 following the release of the statement before paring the advance to 1.2424-- still a 0.4% gain from the session low -- before ECB President Mario Draghi's scheduled press conference at 8:30 am Eastern Time.