efe-epaBy Tom Fairless Frankfurt (Germany)

European Central Bank officials warned at their April policy meeting that the Eurozone's economic soft patch might last longer than expected, and underscored their willingness to use all their policy tools to shore up the economy, according to a report from Dow Jones Newswires supplied to Efe.

Minutes of the April 9-10 meeting, published on Thursday, reveal concerns among ECB policy makers over stubbornly low inflation and a run of soft economic data, especially in the key manufacturing sector.

The officials also expressed concerns about the impact of the ECB's negative interest rates on the profitability of the region's banks. The ECB's key interest rate is currently set at minus 0.4 percent.

The 19-nation Eurozone economy has slowed since the middle of last year, in part due to headwinds from Brexit negotiations and international trade tensions.

The latest data and surveys suggest that growth remains sluggish through May, notwithstanding a rebound in the first three months of the year, the Dow Jones report added.

ECB officials warned at the April meeting that some recent data had turned out even weaker than expected. They said there was "somewhat less confidence" that the economy would rebound in the second half of the year .

"The point was made that inflation remained uncomfortably below the governing council's inflation aim and market-based inflation expectations had receded, while the projected inflation convergence had been repeatedly delayed," the minutes said. The ECB aims to keep inflation just below 2 percent over the medium term, but it has struggled to reach that level in recent years.

ECB rate setters "reiterated (their) determination to stand ready to adjust all of (their) monetary policy tools, as appropriate," to ensure that inflation picks up sustainably, the Minutes said.

The officials also called for further analysis of the impact of negative interest rates on banks' profits and lending. EFE-EPA

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