Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Euro rates and growth outlook cut

Graph showing ECB interest rates

The European Central Bank (ECB) has cut its key interest rate to 1.5% from 2.0%, the lowest since it started setting euro rates in January 1999.

It followed a cut in UK rates by the Bank of England. US and Japanese rates are, in effect, already at zero.

At a news conference, ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet slashed his forecasts for eurozone growth.

The ECB is now predicting GDP this year in the 16-nation bloc will shrink by between 2.2% and 3.2%.

Its last prediction, made in December, was that growth would be between no change and a fall of 1% in 2009.

For 2010 it was predicting growth of between 0.5% and 1.5%. It is now forecasting growth of between 0.7% and minus 0.7%.

Non-standard measures

The revisions reflect Mr Trichet's view that the global economy has "weakened substantially in recent months" but that it will "gradually recover" in 2010.

Jean-Claude Trichet
Overall inflation rates have decreased significantly and are now expected to remain well below 2% over 2009 and 2010
Jean-Claude Trichet, President, ECB

But there were no new measures announced to help stimulate the eurozone economy, with Mr Trichet stressing that he was already using various "non-standard measures" and saying that the ECB's rate-setters were considering various others.

Slowing growth was confirmed by revised economic growth figures issued earlier on Thursday.

GDP for the last three months of 2008 was down 1.3% from the same quarter of the previous year, worse than the initial estimate of 1.2%.

The figure for the previous quarter was left unchanged at a 1.5% fall.

Thursday's decision was the ECB's fifth rate cut since October 2008, which has brought eurozone rates down from 4.25%.

Mr Trichet said that interest rates could still fall further from their current level, although he pointed out that they are already at a very low level.

He also said that inflation would stay below the ECB's target of below, but close to, 2%.

"Overall inflation rates have decreased significantly and are now expected to remain well below 2% over 2009 and 2010," he said.

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