European Central Bank keeps stimulus in place

British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives have seen their poll ratings shrink ahead of Thursday's election fueling fears of political uncertainty

U.S. applications to buy a home reached their highest level in about seven years last week as mortgage rates fell to their lowest levels since late 2016, the Mortgage Bankers Association had said on Wednesday.

Significantly, in its initial statement the ECB Governing Council said it continued to expect rates to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, removing the reference to the possibility that they might be lowered further. The ECB has slashed interest rates, including its main one to zero, and embarked on a big bond-buying stimulus program to keep a lid on market interest rates. Draghi said risks to growth are now "broadly balanced" - a tweak from last time out when risks were "tilted to the downside".

All told, eurozone growth during the first quarter was double that of the US, a welcome development for the central bankers at the ECB ahead of their latest policy decision Thursday afternoon in Tallinn, Estonia. Some analysts expect the European Central Bank to debate that issue - known as tapering - in September.

Sources told Reuters last week the European Central Bank will acknowledge the improved economic outlook by removing a reference to "downside risks" in its statement.

The currency bloc's economy has been on its best run for a decade but ECB President Mario Draghi is yet to be convinced that the recent rebound in inflation is durable because wage growth remains sluggish.

Mickelson to miss US Open for daughter's graduation
Instead he will watch daughter Amanda graduate and give the commencement address at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad on June 15. Mickelson has not officially withdrawn yet but it would take an unforeseen change of scheduling to get him to change his mind .

This in turn has kept the euro in check this week and it was down 0.15 per cent against the dollar in morning trade in Europe.

In the first quarter, household consumption rose 0.3 per cent from the previous three months, contributing 0.2 percentage point to growth. Inflation was expected to hit 1.7 per cent this year, 1.6 per cent in 2018, and 1.7 per cent in 2019.

The euro zone economy grew by more than previously estimated in the first quarter and at its fastest rate in a year, European Union statistics agency Eurostat said today.

But any announcement on its quantitative easing (QE) programme is likely to be put off until the autumn, when policymakers hope the economic picture will have become clearer. German politicians in particular have called for an earlier end to QE, saying it is eroding the assets of savers and discourages other eurozone countries from pursuing reforms to make their economies more efficient.

The projections policy makers are set to receive at their out-of-Frankfurt meeting will show a weaker outlook across the forecast horizon due to a drop in energy costs, according to euro-area officials familiar with the matter. "I didn't hear any dissenting voice. with respect to the proposals", he said.

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