European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde is expected to signal Thursday the ECB stands ready to launch another round of stimulus this year as governments ramp up restrictions amid a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases.

Analysts are expecting the ECB to leave interest rates at historic lows and to maintain its emergency pandemic bond-buying programme at 1.35 trillion euros (1.6 trillion dollars). The programme is currently due to end in June 2021.

But Lagarde could use her Thursday press conference to pave the way for fresh monetary stimulus possibly as early as December.

The ECB chief’s press conference will follow a steady stream of data pointing to the 19-member eurozone economy having lost momentum in recent months after it bounced back from a deep trough earlier this year triggered by the global pandemic.

While industrial production has slowed, consumer confidence in the region slumped in October amid unemployment fears, a key European Commission survey released last week showed.

Public health figures also show the virus raging across the eurozone, forcing governments to launch fresh restrictions on economic and public life.

Equally worrying for the ECB is that data to be released on Friday is forecast to show that annual inflation – its key monetary policy measure – remained in negative territory for the third month in October at minus 0.3 per cent.
Consumer prices have now undershot the ECB’s annual inflation target of just below 2 per cent for the last seven years.

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