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European Central Bank holds rates steady and reaffirms ultra-easy monetary policy

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The European Central Bank (ECB) held interest rates steady on Thursday, as investors eagerly awaited any further guidance over the bank’s monetary stimulus program.

The ECB’s interest rate on its main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at zero, 0.25 and -0.40 percent respectively.

Attention from investors will turn to ECB President Mario Draghi to see what he makes of recent conflicting economic data and whether the central bank will extend its ultra-easy monetary stimulus efforts beyond September. Draghi is due to speak at a press conference at 1:30 p.m. London time (8:30 a.m. ET).

The ECB president is not expected to offer any clues about when the bank will end its stimulus program, under which it purchases 30 billion euros ($37 billion) of bonds per month. Instead, analysts expect the ECB to delay a final decision over its stimulus settings until meetings in either June or July.

“The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of net asset purchases,” the ECB said in a statement, repeating its long-standing guidance on interest rates.

The timing of when the ECB will end its stimulus program is crucial because it gives investors a major clue about when the central bank could then look to raise interest rate benchmarks.

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