Euro tumbles as ECB stands pat on rates into 2019

The euro fell broadly on Thursday as the European Central Bank planned to keep interest rates at record lows into the summer of 2019 and extended its massive bond purchase program into year-end.

The ECB’s move to protract monetary stimulus came amid jitters about slowing growth in the euro zone, political turmoil in Italy and global trade tension, analysts said.

“We didn’t discuss when to raise rates,” ECB President Mario Draghi said at a press conference following the central bank’s policy meeting.

This stance contrasts with the steady rate-hike campaign that the Federal Reserve signaled on Wednesday.

The ECB’s willingness to preserve easy money to help its economy soured bullish bets on the single currency and caused traders to pile into the dollar and yen.

“The market was caught wrong-footed as the rates would be on hold into mid-2019,” said Peter Ng, senior currency trader at Silicon Valley Bank at Santa Clara, California.

At 11:08 a.m. (1508 GMT), the euro EUR= shed 1.2 percent at $1.1645 after briefly posting its steepest daily drop against the dollar in nearly two years.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Dollar banknotes are seen in this photo illustration taken February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzale/Illustration/File Photo

Against the Japanese yen, the single currency slid 1.3 percent to 128.45 yen EURJPY= for its biggest one-day fall in over two weeks.

Investors now price just a 30 percent chance of a 10 basis point rate hike by July 2019, compared with a roughly 80 percent chance earlier in the day. ECBWATCH

On the other hand, the U.S. central bank is expected to raise short-term interest rates twice more in 2018 and likely to lift them three times in 2019, according to a Reuters poll.

On Wednesday, the Fed, as expected, raised short-term rates by a quarter point to a range of between 1.75 and 2.00 percent.

“There’s obviously a divergence where rates are heading,” Ng said. “This makes the dollar a lot more attractive to global investors.”

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