FRANKFURT - Financial markets are waiting to see whether the European Central Bank (ECB) is ready to step up action to end the debt crisis after a recent series of unprecedented measures, analysts said.
The ECB's governing council convenes for its regular monthly policy-setting meeting on Wednesday, a day earlier than normal owing to the Easter holidays.
It is not expected to announce any changes in interest rates, currently on hold at the historically low level of 1 per cent.
But ECB watchers are keen to hear whether president Mario Draghi has any more cards up his sleeve to bring the long-running sovereign-debt crisis to an end, or whether the bank is now drawing up a so- called "exit strategy" to wind down the recent raft of exceptional policy measures.
The ECB was quick to take on a firefighting role from the very beginning of the crisis.
It quickly reversed last year's rate hikes to bring euro-zone borrowing costs back down to an all-time low of 1 per cent, and embarked on a hotly contested programme of buying the bonds of debt-mired countries.
More recently, in two so- called long-term refinancing operations (LTROs) in December and February, it pumped more than 1 trillion euros (S$1.7 trillion) into the banking system in a bid to avert a dangerous credit squeeze in the 17 countries that share the euro.
In the wake of such hectic action, analysts believe the ECB will now hold its fire as it assesses the effects of its moves.
Indeed, some officials already seem to be talking about an exit strategy.
Last week, executive board member Benoit Coeure insisted that "a timely exit from non- standard measures and a return to a less accommodative stance - once the economic conditions are ripe - are essential".
He added that low interest rates over long periods "might fuel excessive risk-taking, leverage and asset-price bubbles (and) might discourage banks, companies and governments from strengthening their balance sheets and, therefore, create a dependence on low rates".