ECB cuts growth, inflation forecasts

Mario Draghi, President of the European central Bank (ECB) attends a news conference on the outcome of the Governing Council meeting at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank slashed its growth and inflation forecasts for 2019 and lowered those for 2020 and 2021 on Thursday, acknowledging that Europe’s slowdown was longer and deeper than earlier thought.

ECB President Mario Draghi said that, unusually, the central bank had not changed its assessment that risks were balanced to the downside despite the policy changes.

He said that was because, although Thursday’s decisions would increase the resilience of the euro zone economy, it could not affect external factors such as rising protectionism and the still-uncertain course of Brexit.

However, the bank’s governing council rated the probability of a euro zone recession as “very low”, he told a news conference.

With a global trade war weighing on confidence, industrial production and exports have slipped, exacerbated by a string of domestic difficulties, from German industry’s struggle to adapt to new auto emissions regulations to protests in France.

Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy, stagnated in the fourth quarter and Italy is in outright recession, raising the risk that a temporary slowdown will become a more lasting downturn as business confidence is sapped by a steady flow of negative news.

Following are the ECB staff’s new projections for inflation and GDP growth, with December forecasts in brackets.

The ECB updates projections once a quarter.

Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; editing by Catherine Evans and Larry King