Members of the bank’s 25-member governing council also debated whether current low levels of inflation in Europe could become chronic by being ingrained in wage and price agreements.
The concerns expressed in the summary of the January 21 meeting could push the council to add to its current stimulus measures when it next meets to review policy on March 10.
Europe’s economy is recovering slowly with stronger domestic demand but faces risks from a slowdown in global trade that could hurt exports.
The bank could increase the size of its 60 billion euro (£46 billion) in monthly bond purchases, a step which drives down already low borrowing costs and pumps newly-printed money into the economy.
The ECB could also cut the rate on deposits that commercial banks store with the central bank even further into negative territory, from minus 0.3 per cent.
The negative rate is an unconventional step aimed at pushing banks to lend the money rather than hoard it.
In the summary, ECB members expressed concern that “global economic growth and global trade growth were decelerating in a context of heightened volatility in global financial and commodity markets and weaker global confidence”.
“The environment had deteriorated in emerging market economies in particular,” it added.
They also debated whether current low inflation – only 0.4 per cent annually – was working its way into the setting of wages and prices by businesses and workers.
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