March 12, 2014 / 10:32 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-ECB policymakers say ready to act; Linde cites FX concern

* Praet says we’ll act if necessary, not there yet

* Coeure says no deflation in euro zone but sees risk

* Linde says higher euro could lead to additional measures (Adds Coeure)

By Eva Taylor and Sarah White

FRANKFURT/MADRID, March 12 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank is ready to use non-standard tools to deliver stable prices, board member Peter Praet said on Wednesday, and Spanish central bank chief Luis Maria Linde said new measures may be needed in the coming months.

Another board member, Benoit Coeure, added that the euro zone was not experiencing deflation but that this was a risk and the ECB would be ready to act if needed.

“We will act if we think it is necessary to act. We are not there yet,” Praet, who is in charge of the ECB’s economics portfolio and a member of the six-member Executive Board, told a conference in Frankfurt.

The assertions that the ECB is ready to act came after the central bank disappointed markets last week by leaving interest rates at a record low 0.25 percent and taking no other policy steps, despite forecasting low inflation for years to come.

The lack of action was significant - last month, ECB President Mario Draghi had signalled that by the March meeting the bank would have enough information to judge the need for fresh stimulus.

The euro got a boost following last week’s meeting, heading towards $1.40.

At a separate conference in Madrid, Linde said further appreciation of the euro could prompt policy action.

“In its announcements, the ECB has said that it will maintain its accommodative monetary policy,” he said. “Depending on events, there may be new measures. If the euro keeps appreciating against the dollar, that could lead to additional measures.”


Inflation has been in what Draghi calls the “danger zone” below 1 percent for five months now. It was running at 0.8 percent at last count.

Draghi has set out two scenarios that could trigger fresh action: a deterioration in the medium-term inflation outlook and an “unwarranted” tightening of short-term money markets.

Coeure said a situation could arise where the level of excess liquidity - the money banks hold beyond what they need for their day-to-day operations - was not appropriate to the ECB’s monetary policy stance and in that case the ECB might have to inject more liquidity.

But that was not necessary now, he told the ‘ECB and its Watchers’ conference in Frankfurt.

Banks have started to voluntarily repay three-year loans - LTROs - they took from the ECB in late 2011 and early 2012 and the amount of excess liquidity has been declining as a result. It stood at 126 billion euros ($174.72 billion) on Wednesday.

“The ECB has reacted adequately to Europe’s economic situation. It’s true that prices have evolved away from that 2 percent target,” Linde said. “It’s also true that in the coming months there will be decisions to take. In 2015 the LTROs are expiring ... so there are decisions to take in coming months.”

Praet said the ECB reinforced its forward guidance at its policy meeting last week “by adding a new element, which is the allusion to economic slack”.

Draghi told a news conference after the March 6 policy meeting that the bank’s policy stance would stay in place “even after we see improvements in the economy” because of the slack.

Demand and supply factors were behind the weak prices in the euro zone, which was extending into the medium term, said Praet.

“Economic uncertainty has increased,” he added. “So, too, has our toolbox, which now also includes various non-standard measures - which we are ready to use to achieve our price stability mandate.” (Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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