UPDATE 1-Constancio says market missed ECB message at March meeting

Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:49am EDT

FRANKFURT, March 11 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank made its forward guidance more precise at its March meeting, but markets seemed to have missed some of the message, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said on Tuesday.

The part of the message that failed to get through was the emphasis on slack in the euro zone economy, Constancio said. He also pointed out the ECB still had policy measures in reserve, such as lower interest rates or quantitative easing, if they were needed.

"All the messages were not taken in completely," Constancio told MNI news agency in an interview. "The forward guidance was made more precise in relation to the existence of this slack. Unfortunately ... this was not picked up by the markets."

At its March policy meeting last Thursday, the ECB left interest rates on hold and introduced no other measures to bolster the fragile euro zone recovery, despite forecasting low inflation for years to come.

ECB President Mario Draghi also described as "relatively limited" the benefits of one technical option for loosening lending conditions, suggesting the bank would either do nothing or else take bold policy action should the outlook deteriorate.

Constancio stressed that the ECB still had policy options available.

"We have tools on the table that we consider as available to use if the need arises. And that includes, as it has been said, either cuts in rates or QE or asset purchases," he said.

The ECB's main scenario was for a gradual economic recovery and a gradual increase in inflation rates.

"If it does not materialize, then that's a different environment and that's when other instruments would be available to use," Constancio said. "So this does not mean that we are on hold regardless of the developments of the situation. That's not true. We keep, of course, looking as always to what is happening to the economy."

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