ECB holds key interest rate at record low 0.75%

The European Central Bank Thursday held its main refinancing rate at a historic low of 0.75 percent, despite concerns that political gridlock in Italy could trigger a resurgence in the debt crisis.

ECB watchers had not expected the central bank to ease borrowing costs in the euro area this month, but analysts said they would wait to hear whether central bank chief Mario Draghi had anything to say about the political situation in Italy and the possible repercussions for the euro area as a whole.

Draghi believes that with interest rates currently at a record low of 0.75 percent, an unprecedented amount of liquidity pumped into banks and a key bond-purchase programme in place, the central bank has already done its utmost to help resolve the long-running crisis.

However, the gridlock in last week's general elections in Italy, where a centre-left coalition won the most votes, but not enough to form a majority in parliament, has focused market attention back on whether the ECB might have to step in again to stamp out fears of a resurgence in the crisis.

Italian-born Draghi is unlikely to let himself be drawn into making any comment on domestic political issues in his home country.

But political developments there are likely to be a topic in the question-and-answer session of the traditional post-meeting ECB news conference, analysts said.

Also on the agenda of the meeting will be the ECB's updated staff projections for growth and inflation.

In the last round of forecasts published in December, the ECB had foreseen a contraction in the eurozone economy of 0.3 percent this year followed by growth of 1.2 percent in 2014.

Analysts said they do not expect significant revisions to the forecasts.