October 16, 2019 / 9:38 PM / a month ago

ECB will implement September package but review is welcome - Villeroy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The European Central Bank will implement its September stimulus package in full despite a rare public disagreement, but a broader review of the bank’s policy framework is welcome, French central bank chief Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Governor of the Bank of France Francois Villeroy de Galhau delivers a speech to open a conference in Paris, France, July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

The ECB cut rates deeper into negative territory last month and agreed to restart bond purchases, a divisive move that was opposed by more than a third of the rate-setting Governing Council, an unusually high level of dissent for a normally collegial body.

“Have no doubt: We are committed, and the whole package will be implemented,” Villeroy, who also opposed the asset purchases, told a university lecture. “It is time to turn the page, and turn to the future.”

Several Governing Council members, including the central bank chiefs of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, openly criticised the decision in recent weeks, stirring an unusual debate and raising some doubts in markets about the ECB’s determination.

With ECB chief Mario Draghi leaving office at the end of the month, incoming ECB President Christine Lagarde already promised a review of the bank’s policy framework, and Villeroy said that such a move would be “very welcome.”

As part of this review, the ECB should clarify the symmetric nature of its inflation target to emphasize that any overshoot would be treated with the same vigour as an undershoot.

“There could be interpretations from ECB watchers saying that you had an implicit ceiling,” said Villeroy, who also sits on the ECB’s rate-setting Governing Council. “We corrected this bias but perhaps not strongly enough... we have to enhance the symmetry.”

The ECB has undershot its target of almost 2% since 2013, and its projections suggest it may not reach it for year to come, prompting some governors to argue for a complete rethink of the target itself.

Distancing himself from that debate, Villeroy said that the ECB’s problem is not the target level itself.

“I don’t think that at this stage that our problem is the ‘close to but below 2%.’ There is little ambiguity about the level,” he said.

Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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