ECB will extend QE program at lower pace:

  • As widely expected, ECB announced it would extend its asset purchase program beyond March 2017. Plan will be extended for nine months through end of December 2017. This is more aggressive than market expectations for a six-month extension. Starting in April, monthly pace of asset purchases will be reduced from €80B to €60B. However, balance sheet impact is larger than expected (€540M vs €480M) given the longer timeframe. ECB also announced that the program could be extended beyond 2017, if necessary. Heading into the meeting, there had been some speculation that it could provide some kind of signal that the program would ultimately end. Nothing in the press release in terms of technical changes to the details of the program, though these will likely be addressed at Draghi press conference. Potential remedies include a temporary deviation from the capital key, an increase in the issuer limit and a removal of the yield limit on bonds it will buy.