May 7, 2018 / 6:25 PM / a year ago

ECB's Smets says stimulus likely to be phased out over summer: WSJ

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

(Reuters) - European Central Bank governing council member Jan Smets said the bank is likely to phase out its bond-buying program over the summer, possibly announcing a decision after its July 26 policy meeting, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The Belgian official said that investors might be right to push back their forecasts for when the ECB would increase interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis, according to the Journal

“The latest data remain pretty consistent with the story of the economic expansion continuing at a robust pace,” Smets said to the newspaper.

Smets, who is a part of the ECB’s rate-setting committee, suggested the bank soon will be ready to phase out its monthly 30 billion euros ($35.78 billion) of bond purchases and shift the focus of its communications toward possible interest-rate increases, WSJ added.

By buying trillions of euros worth of public and private bonds over the past three years, the ECB has kept borrowing costs low, hoping to stimulate borrowing and spending, all with the aim of boosting inflation.

Sources have told Reuters ECB policymakers were keen not to upset investor expectations that its stimulus program would end this year and its policy rate would rise for the first time since 2011 towards the middle of next year.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King

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