ECB Said to Prepare Broad-Based QE Plan for January Meeting

The European Central Bank’s Governing Council expects to consider a package of broad-based asset purchases including sovereign debt next month, two euro-area central-bank officials familiar with the deliberations said.

While the proposal is envisaged to include various types of bonds, it won’t encompass equities, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. They said no decision on implementing quantitative easing has been taken yet, and the composition of the program may be influenced by incoming data. An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

ECB President Mario Draghi said today that policy makers “won’t tolerate” a prolonged period of low inflation, and that officials discussed “all assets but gold” as potential targets for purchases. The council asked internal committees last month to design new unconventional stimulus measures to help fuel growth and inflation.

The ECB will be able to measure progress on its objective of boosting its balance sheet by as much as 1 trillion euros ($1. 24 trillion) when it allots another round of long-term loans on Dec. 11. The ECB holds its next monetary-policy meeting on Jan. 22.

The European Court of Justice will deliver a non-binding ruling on Jan. 14 about the legality of the ECB’s OMT program, which was credited with stopping a rout in European government bonds in 2012 by pledging to buy debt of countries signing up to reforms. A negative judgment by the court could ultimately impinge on the ECB’s freedom to intervene in sovereign-debt markets.

QE Hurdles

“By January they’ll know the TLTRO take-up, they’ll know to what extent the OMT case will be a hurdle,” said Richard Barwell, senior European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London. “But the main thing is, do they agree it’s not acceptable to have low inflation? If they agree that, then they just have to work out how to get from A to B.”

The ECB downgraded its economic outlook today. It now forecasts inflation of 0.5 percent this year and 0.7 percent in 2015, with the economy expanding 0.8 percent in 2014 and 1 percent next year. A year ago it was predicting inflation and growth of 1.1 percent for 2014 and as recently as September it expected growth of 1.6 percent for 2015. Draghi said those forecasts don’t include the most recent decline in oil prices.

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