ECB stands pat on interest rates

The European Central Bank (ECB) left benchmark interest rates unchanged on Thursday, with policymakers likely to argue the regional economy is robust enough to absorb spare capacity and generate inflation.

With inflation rebounding and economic growth leveling off at a relatively stable pace, the ECB has been gradually removing stimulus for months. The scaling back of its crisis-fighting measures come despite risks to Europe's economy, ranging from global protectionism to emerging market turmoil.

Nonetheless, ECB President Mario Draghi is widely expected to announce the bank will stick to its current monetary policy, with Europe's economic growth run now into its sixth consecutive year.

So-called quantitative easing (QE) — which refers to the process of pumping cash through the financial system and real economy, supporting growth and inflation — is set to fall to 15 billion euros ($17.4 billion U.S.) per month from October. That would halve the ECB's current rate of bond purchases and firm up previous guidance that the bank "anticipates" such a move.

The bank's stimulus program is then scheduled to end altogether in December.

Over the past four years, the ECB has purchased more than 2.5 trillion euros of debt, depressing borrowing costs and stimulating economic growth in the 19-member currency bloc after a double-dip recession.