The Latest: ECB raises its inflation forecast sharply

The Latest on the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting and news conference (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

The European Central Bank has sharply raised its inflation projection for this year, to 1.7 percent from 1.3 percent previously.

The bank published new staff estimates after Thursday's meeting at which it left all its stimulus programs unchanged.

Inflation figures are important because the bank's key mission is maintaining stable prices, defined as just under 2 percent. It has already reached that goal with inflation of 2.0 percent in February. But ECB President Mario Draghi says the recent jump in inflation is due mainly to higher oil prices, not to fundamental pressures in the economy. He says it's too early to talk about dialing back the bond-purchase stimulus because core inflation excluding oil and food remains stuck at only 0.9 percent.

The inflation estimates for 2018 was nudged up to 1.6 percent from 1.5 percent while the forecast for 2019 was left unchanged at 1.7 percent.

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2:45 p.m.

European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says underlying inflationary pressures across the 19-country eurozone remain too weak for the bank to start the process of withdrawing its monetary stimulus efforts.

Draghi said after the bank left policy unchanged that "underlying inflation pressures continue to remain subdued."

Core inflation, which strips out the volatile items of food, energy, alcohol and tobacco, has been stubbornly low over recent months at an annual rate of 0.9 percent, even as the headline rate has spiked to 2 percent.

Draghi also said incoming data increase confidence that the economic expansion will continue "to firm and broaden." Recent surveys have pointed to an uptick in momentum.

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1:45 p.m.

The European Central Bank has decided to keep its stimulus programs unchanged.

And that leaves President Mario Draghi with the job of explaining at his post-decision news conference why he is pressing on with the stimulus when the economy is growing and inflation has reached the bank's goal of just under 2 percent.

Draghi argues that inflation's recent rise to 2.0 percent in February comes from higher oil prices, and not from fundamental pressures in the economy such as higher wages for workers.

Core inflation, excluding volatile fuel and oil, remains stuck at 0.9 percent.

The bank decided to keep its bond purchases from banks unchanged at 80 billion euros this month and 60 billion euros per month through the end of the year.