The bank's steps on most counts exceeded expectations among analysts, suggesting that it was determined to have an impact and avoid the market disappointment that occurred after its Dec. 3 meeting, when it was seen as having done less than it could have. Stock markets surged Thursday after the ECB's announcement.
At Thursday's meeting, the central bank:
— Cut its main benchmark rate to zero from 0.05%, a mostly symbolic step,
— Lowered the rate on deposits from commercial banks at the central bank to minus 0.40% from minus 0.30%, an unconventional move aimed at pushing banks to lend rather than hoard cash,
— Increased its monthly bond purchases to 80 billion euros ($88 billion) from 60 billion euros, pushing more newly printed money into the economy,
— Added corporate bonds to the assets it can buy, expanding the potential scope of the purchase program,
— Announced long-term cheap loans of up to four years to help support banks.
The negative rate on deposits -- in essence, a tax on bank's excess funds -- is an unusual step aimed at pushing banks to lend rather than leave money at the central bank.
More lending would promote growth and push up inflation from a worryingly low annual rate of minus 0.2%. The rate cut and the other measures to expand stimulus underline how far the ECB sees itself from achieving its goal of inflation of just under 2%.