April 26, 2018 / 4:48 PM / a month ago

ECB keen to maintain expectations on stimulus exit, sources say

FRANKFURT, April 26 (Reuters) - European Central Bank policymakers meeting on Thursday were keen not to upset investor expectations for a gradual withdrawal of the ECB’s monetary stimulus, despite some concerns about the state of the economy, three sources told Reuters.

Financial markets expect the ECB to wind down its 2.55 trillion-euro ($3.09 trillion) stimulus programme by the end of this year and raise its policy rate for the first time since 2011 towards the middle of next year.

Weaker-than-expected economic data out of the euro zone has raised question marks about that, but policymakers remained comfortable with the policy path priced in by investors, the sources said.

Rate setters spent most of Thursday’s meeting debating the uncertain economic outlook. They agreed the signs of weakness were not dramatic enough to warrant a slowdown in its policy normalisation, on which there is now broad consensus on the Governing Council, the sources added.

They said a decision on future moves would likely be communicated in June or July, with September only an outside possibility as it was too close to the tentative end date of asset buys.

An ECB spokesman declined to comment. ($1 = 0.8255 euros) (Reporting By Frank Siebelt, Balazs Koranyi and Francesco Canepa, editing by Larry King)

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