The European Central Bank pushed out the timing of its first post-crisis rate hike until 2020 at the earliest and offered banks new rounds of multi-year loans in a bid to revive the currency bloc's slowing economy, it said on Thursday.

The bolder-than-expected move showed ECB was having to revisit plans to dial back its unprecedented stimulus measures as a global trade war, Brexit uncertainty and simmering debt concerns in Italy take their toll on a fragile euro zone.

While investors had long stopped pricing in an ECB rate hike this year, few were expecting the bank to change its policy message, causing yields on government bonds and the euro to fall after the announcement.

"The Governing Council now expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels at least through the end of 2019, and in any case for as long as necessary," the ECB said in a statement. It had previously said rates would remain at their record low levels through the summer.

In addition, the ECB launched a third Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation consisting of two-year loans partly aimed at helping banks roll over 720 billion EUR in existing TLTRO and avoid a credit squeeze that could exacerbate the current economic slowdown.

Commercial banks have indeed already started restricting credit in the face of falling industrial output and exports, threatening to reinforce the slowdown.

Thursday's announcement comes four years to the month since the ECB launched an unprecedented asset purchase program known as quantitative easing (QE) to prevent sub-zero inflation from further hitting an economy still reeling from the euro zone debt crisis.

The ECB's move to extend the horizon for steady rates was likely to be perceived as a policy reversal for the central bank that only ended its bond-buying programme in December and has signalled an interest rate hike for later this year.

EUR/USD has plunged below the 1.1278 Fibonacci level, a 76.8% retrace of the 1.1234 to 1.1420 (February to March) up-leg, a daily close will confirm the shift in risk to the downside. That would increase the scope for a dive through the 1.1216 November 12 2018 low. We have placed an offer at 1.1300, upside should be capped by the falling tenkan line at 1.1333.

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