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"The economic weakness in the euro area is expected to extend into 2013," ECB President Mario Draghi said at a news conference. "Later, in 2013, economic activity should gradually recover.
"Several ... indicators have broadly stabilised, albeit at low levels and financial market confidence has improved significantly," he said.
He was speaking after the ECB held its main interest rate at 0.75 percent.
Draghi reiterated the ECB's view that inflation, which held at 2.2 percent in December, would fall below 2 percent during the course of this year. The central bank targets inflation of below but close to 2 percent.
"Over the policy-relevant horizon, inflationary pressures should remain contained," Draghi said.