Mario Draghi helps the Euro to gain strength

Wanting to keep all options on the table, Draghi is likely to signal a concern about the rapid rise in the currency but will maintain that it is not a policy target, hoping to strike a balanced message until policymakers are ready to unveil their blueprint for winding down stimulus, economists said.

Such comments matter because a weaker dollar can help US exporters by making their goods cheaper against foreign competition.

The euro was around 0.8% higher against the United States dollar as at 1410 GMT. The higher euro can become a headache for Europe as it can hurt its exporters and weigh on inflation, which is already worryingly low.

Draghi's comments echoed those he made in September and which helped weaken the currency at the time.

"The recent volatility in exchange rates represents a source of uncertainty which requires monitoring with regard to its possible implications for the medium-term outlook for price stability", Draghi said at a press conference.

The euro zone Stoxx index fell 0.4 per cent after hitting a one-week low, after the single currency spiked higher following remarks from Mr Draghi who said the European Central Bank did not target foreign exchange rates.

The pace of growth in lending to businesses in the eurozone slowed in December, European Central Bank data showed Friday, in a mild setback for the Frankfurt institution. Rates these days are not set by governments but by global foreign exchange markets where major currencies are bought and sold.

The ECB chose to keep interest rates in the eurozone on hold, with the focus now on ECB president Mario Draghi's usual press conference following the release of the statement on rates.

The euro has gained about 5% since the start of the year, fuelled by speculation about further steps by the European Central Bank to wind down its monetary stimulus plan and after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared this week that a weaker greenback was "good for US trade".

This week's bank meeting, he said, did not discuss tapering bond purchases.

"The euro's strong performance at the start of 2018 has been aided by upbeat" economic data, said Stamenkovic at NFS Macro. The negative rate is a penalty aimed at pushing banks to lend the money rather than let it pile up risk-free at the ECB.

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