ECB President Mario Draghi speech at the European Parliament

Conditions are improving in Europe

“On the one hand, the evidence suggests that the acute deflation risks have disappeared and that inflation is set to pick up over the coming years. And contrary to a widespread perception, euro area economic conditions have also been steadily improving…And in the last quarter, the recovery has been broadening across sectors and across countries.”

…as inflation picks up

“The pickup in headline inflation in December and in January largely reflects sizeable upward base effects and recent increases in energy prices. So far underlying inflation pressures remain very subdued and are expected to pick up only gradually as we go on. This lack of momentum in underlying inflation reflects largely weak domestic cost pressures. The still significant degree of labour market slack and weak productivity developments are weighing down on wage growth.”

Euro area subject to global risk

“Looking ahead, risks to the euro area outlook remain tilted to the downside and relate predominantly to global factors. Our current monetary policy stance foresees that, if the inflation outlook becomes less favourable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation, the Governing Council is prepared to increase the asset purchase programme in terms of size and/or duration.”

Low interest rates have an impact on banks

“Low (and negative) rates might dent bank profits through the narrowing of net interest margins. At the same time, in supporting the recovery, accommodative monetary policy reduces delinquency and default. It thus improves the credit quality of firms and households. This improved credit quality in loan portfolios – together with increasing intermediation volumes – is certainly positive for banks. It has been a key factor sustaining banks’ earnings over the last year. Moreover, low longer-term interest rates increase the market value of financial assets held by banks. This, in turn, results in capital gains that further support bank profitability. This aggregate picture masks some heterogeneity within the banking sector.”

He doesn’t think there are asset bubbles presently

“Currently, we do not see compelling evidence at the euro area level of stretched asset valuations. Both corporate bond spreads and equity prices appear to be broadly in line with fundamentals. Similarly, real estate price growth remains moderate in the area as a whole, although significant cross-country heterogeneity is observable. This assessment is corroborated by the fact that credit growth is still modest, which suggests that asset price developments are not accompanied by increasing leverage.”