The annual growth rate of bank loans to the non-financial private sector turned somewhat more negative in October. In the case of loans to households, the latest data provide further confirmation of a levelling-off at low rates of growth. As regards loans to non-financial corporations, it is worthwhile to note that the growth of loans to enterprises typically picks up with some lag compared with the cycle in economic activity. In this respect, the still subdued levels of production and trade, as well as the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the business outlook, are likely to dampen firms' demand for bank financing also in the coming months, especially for short-term loans. At the same time, overall financing conditions continue to improve, which should support the demand for loans in the period ahead. Banks are currently faced with the challenge of managing the size and structure of their overall balance sheets, and at the same time ensuring the availability of credit to the non-financial sector. Against the background of their improved liquidity situation and access to market financing, banks should address this challenge by taking appropriate measures to strengthen further their capital bases and, where necessary, take full advantage of government support measures for recapitalisation.
To sum up, the current rates remain appropriate. Taking into account all the information and analyses that have become available since our meeting on 5 November 2009, price developments are expected to remain subdued over the policy-relevant horizon. The latest information also confirms the expected improvement in economic activity in the second half of this year, with euro area real GDP growth returning to positive territory in the third quarter of 2009. However, some of the factors supporting the recovery at present are of a temporary nature. The Governing Council expects the euro area economy to grow at a moderate pace in 2010, recognising that the recovery process is likely to be uneven and that the outlook remains subject to high uncertainty. Cross-checking the outcome of the economic analysis with that of the monetary analysis confirms the assessment of low inflationary pressure over the medium term, as money and credit growth continues to slow down. All in all, we expect price stability to be maintained over the medium term, thereby supporting the purchasing power of euro area households.
With all the measures we have taken in response to the intensification of the financial crisis, we have supported both the availability of liquidity to the banking sector and the recovery of the euro area economy. As the transmission of monetary policy works with lags, we expect that our policy action will continue to progressively feed through to the economy. We will continue our enhanced credit support to the banking system, while taking into account the ongoing improvement in financial market conditions and avoiding distortions associated with maintaining non-standard measures for too long. Looking ahead, the Governing Council will gradually phase out, at the appropriate time, the extraordinary liquidity measures that are not needed to the same extent as in the past. In order to counter effectively any threat to price stability over the medium to longer term, the liquidity provided will be absorbed when necessary. In this way, the Governing Council will continue to ensure a firm anchoring of medium-term inflation expectations. Such anchoring is indispensable to supporting sustainable growth and employment and contributing to financial stability. Accordingly, we will continue to monitor very closely all developments over the period ahead.
As regards fiscal policies, we re-emphasise how important it is for governments to develop, communicate and implement ambitious fiscal consolidation strategies in a timely manner. These strategies must be based on realistic output growth assumptions and focus on structural expenditure reforms, not least with a view to coping with the budgetary burden associated with an ageing population. As agreed by the ECOFIN Council on 2 December 2009, governments need to set out concrete and quantifiable adjustment measures that will lead to a sustainable correction of fiscal imbalances. Several countries will have to start consolidation in 2010, and all others in 2011 at the latest.
With regard to structural reforms, most estimates indicate that the financial crisis has reduced the productive capacity of our economies, and will continue to do so for some time to come. In order to support sustainable growth and employment, labour market flexibility and more effective incentives to work will be needed. Furthermore, policies that enhance competition and innovation are also urgently needed to speed up restructuring and investment and to create new business opportunities. An appropriate restructuring of the banking sector should also play an important role. Sound balance sheets, effective risk management, and transparent as well as robust business models are key to strengthening banks' resilience to shocks, thereby laying the foundations for sustainable economic growth and financial stability.
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