FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged as expected on Thursday, holding them at record lows as it seeks to revive growth and inflation with cheap credit to the economy.
The decision to leave rates on hold was expected by all 45 analysts polled by Reuters after the ECB cut its deposit rate deeper into negative territory in March, expanded its asset buys and offered a fresh round of cheap loans.
The ECB added that it continues to expect its key interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases.
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It also said that its 80 billion euro per month asset purchase program is intended to run until the end of March 2017, or beyond if necessary, and until the bank sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim.
At Thursday's meeting, the ECB kept its rate on bank overnight deposits, generally seen as its primary interest rate tool, at -0.40 percent.
The main refinancing rate, which determines the cost of credit in the economy was unchanged at 0.00 percent while the rate on the marginal lending facility -- or emergency overnight borrowing rate for banks -- remains at 0.25 percent.
Markets now turn their attention to ECB President Mario Draghi's 1230 GMT news conference, where he may discuss the impact of Britain's decision to leave the EU, the state of Italian banks and the expected difficulty in finding enough bonds to buy under its asset purchase program.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)