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Mario Draghi will take longer to lay out the European Central Bank[1]’s plan to exit unconventional stimulus as protectionism threatens the euro-area outlook, economists say in a Bloomberg survey.

No change to policy settings or language is expected from the Governing Council meeting on April 26, and respondents pushed back their estimates for when the ECB president will communicate the next step toward normalization. They still see asset purchases ending this year.

Click here to see the full survey[2]

Most said the potential for a global trade conflict in coming months is a bigger concern than the current economic slowdown.

“The ECB will maintain its expectation of strong and broad based growth,” said Kristian Toedtmann, an economist at DekaBank. “But as long as the risk of a trade war isn’t off the table and the series of weak economic data hasn’t ended, the ECB is likely to postpone important decisions about its future monetary policy.”

Unwinding Stimulus

Milestones on the ECB's path toward monetary-policy normalization

Source: Bloomberg survey of economists conducted April. 12-19

The Governing Council has tweaked its policy language over the past months, acknowledging the sturdiness of the region’s upswing. Another small step -- such as dropping the need to see a “sustained adjustment” in the inflation outlook as the precondition for ending asset purchases -- could come as early as June, according to approximately half of the respondents. That’s down from more than 80 percent in the previous survey -- before the introduction of U.S. metal tariffs raised the specter of a global trade war.

Most respondents predict the ECB will set an end-date for bond-buying in July or September. Only 36 percent expect...

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