European Central Bank announces massive stimulus program

The European Central Bank has announced a huge bond-buying program in an attempt to resuscitate a struggling eurozone economy.

ECB hopes move boosts borrowing, keeps recession at bay in euro countries

The European Central Bank based in Frankfurt has announced a huge bond-buying program in a last-ditch attempt to resuscitate a struggling eurozone economy. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

The European Central Bank announced today a huge bond-buying program in an attempt to resuscitate the struggling eurozone economy.​

ECB president Mario Draghi said the plan is to purchase 60 billion euros ($85 billion Cdn) of sovereign bonds a month beginning in March and continuing through September 2016. That would put the total stimulus package for the eurozone economy -- including existing schemes -- at just over one trillion euros ($1.5 trillion Cdn).

"Under this expanded program, the combined monthly purchases of public and private-sector securities will amount to 60 billion euros," Draghi said at a news conference.

"They are intended to be carried out until end [of] September 2016 and will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation."

The ECB hopes the manoeuvre will boost borrowing, avert a deflationary spiral and keep a recession at bay in the 19 countries that use the euro. 

The decision to buy government bonds with new money — a policy that is often referred to as quantitative easing, or QE -- comes despite concerns, especially in Germany, that weaker states in the eurozone might use the cheap money to ease back on their own economic reforms, thereby threatening the EU's stronger economies.   

Doubts about the effectiveness of any bond-buying initiative are going beyond Germany.

"It is a mistake to suppose that QE is a panacea in Europe or that it will be sufficient," former U.S. Treasury secretary Larry Summers said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.   

The value of the euro fell immediately after the ECB's announcement in anticipation that the new money it will create will drive down the currency's value. 

Earlier Thursday, the ECB kept its main refinancing rate unchanged at a rock-bottom 0.05 per cent. 

The ECB is struggling to deal with a eurozone economy that is so weak that consumer inflation turned negative last month -- down 0.2 per cent. Like the Bank of Canada, the ECB has an inflation target of two per cent.

Policymakers in the eurozone are worried about the possibility of deflation, which tends to devastate consumer spending as people hold off buying in anticipation of cheaper prices down the road. 

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press


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