European Central Bank president Mario Draghi. Picture: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi testifies before the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. Picture: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN

BRUSSELS — The European Central Bank will take measures to ensure its monetary policy reaches the real economy if that appears threatened by financial-market turbulence, ECB president Mario Draghi said on Monday. The euro fell.

"In the light of the recent financial turmoil, we will analyse the state of transmission of our monetary impulses by the financial system and in particular by banks," Mr Draghi told European Parliament lawmakers in Brussels on Monday.

In addition, the ECB will examine the impact of renewed declines in energy prices and "if either of these two factors entail downward risks to price stability, we will not hesitate to act", he said.

The Frankfurt-based ECB faces its next policy decision on March 10 at a time when price gains in the currency bloc are far below the central bank’s goal of just under 2%, depressed by slowing global growth and an energy supply glut. Bank-led equity sell-offs in the past week now threaten to choke off a fragile recovery in credit and spoil the eurozone’s recovery.

Referring to the global economy, Mr Draghi said "a continuation of the rebalancing process is needed to secure sustainable growth over the medium term".

He also said this "could imply some headwinds in the short term, which will require close monitoring of the related risks".

As Mr Draghi presented his remarks, the euro fell and bank stocks initially declined before recovering. The Euro Stoxx Banks Index rose 3.6% in late trade and the single currency slid 1.1% to trade at $1.1135.

Attempting to draw a line under the past week’s turmoil, which saw one-day stock-price declines of more than 10% at both Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, Mr Draghi underlined the ECB’s efforts since 2014 to repair confidence in the region’s banking sector.

"The fall in bank equity prices was amplified by perceptions that banks may have to do more to adjust their business models to the lower growth/lower interest-rate environment and to the strengthened international regulatory framework that has been put in place since the crisis," he said. "However, we have to acknowledge that the regulatory overhaul since the start of the crisis has laid the foundations for durably increasing the resilience not only of individual institutions but also of the financial system as a whole."

Even though the ECB combed the balance sheets of the eurozone’s largest banks in 2014 prior to becoming their supervisor, investor concerns in recent weeks have focused especially on the pile of bad loans still present at Italian lenders, and political uncertainty over plans to reduce them. Italian bank stocks have lost almost 30% since the beginning of the year.

Mr Draghi said eurozone banks were in a "good position" to bring down nonperforming loans in an orderly manner over the next few years, and added that they would not face additional legal capital requirements. He dismissed a report by Reuters on Monday that the central bank is discussing including asset-backed securities based on Italian nonperforming loans in its asset-purchase programme.

"As far as I know, however, I’m not aware of any talk or conversation," he said. "We are not talking about buying anything."

Questioned about the UK’s current negotiations with the European Union over its continued place in the bloc, Mr Draghi said it should be an opportunity to deepen the monetary union.

The ideal goal in the negotiations should be to "anchor the UK in the European Union", Mr Draghi said, so that "both can draw benefit from this". He added that the ECB was not party to the discussions.

Bloomberg