December 28, 2014 / 7:08 AM / 3 years ago

ECB's Weidmann says German 2015 growth may be better than expected

BERLIN (Reuters) - Growth in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, could be better than expected next year and the situation in Europe is not as bad as many people think, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank told a newspaper on Sunday.

Jens Weidmann, chief of Germany's Bundesbank, listens during a news conference after talks with Anne Le Lorier, first deputy governor of the Banque de France, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin, December 2, 2014. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Jens Weidmann, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, also reiterated his opposition to ECB plans to buy sovereign bonds.

The ECB is watching carefully how a recent drop in oil prices will affect euro zone inflation, far below its target of just below 2 percent, and standing ready to do more to keep the region from slipping into deflation.

“As things are at the moment and if oil prices remain this low, inflation will be lower than expected, but growth will be better,” Weidmann was quoted as saying.

The Bundesbank this month halved its growth forecast for Germany to 1.0 percent for next year. It also cut its prediction for 2014 growth to 1.4 percent from 1.9 percent in June.

“The situation in Europe isn’t as bad as some people believe,” added Weidmann.

Having largely exhausted its policy toolkit with the key interest rate at a record lows of 0.05 percent, broad-based purchases of sovereign bonds - also known as quantitative easing (QE) - are seen as the ECB’s last resort to revive the economy.

But some ECB policymakers have reservations.

Weidmann is the most vocal opponent of such a step in the 24-member Governing Council, concerned the central bank could end up bankrolling troubled euro zone governments and lose sight of its mandate to keep prices stable.

“(With low oil prices) An economic stimulus program has been handed to us, why should we add to that with monetary policy?” said Weidmann, adding that pressure from financial markets should not determine the ECB’s moves on buying up sovereign bonds.

“I am irritated by one question dominating the recent public debate: when will you finally buy?” said Weidmann.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers

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