With much of Europe in lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak, economic activity has come to a near standstill and markets have been in a tailspin, foreshadowing a deep recession on par with the 2008 global financial crisis and raising questions about the euro zone's cohesion at times of stress.
EUR/USD showed a kneejerk reaction to the ECB's Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP), with the exchange rate pulling back from the session high (1.0981) as President Christine Lagarde tweets that "there are no limits to our commitment to the euro".
The initial reaction of shock and awe to the announcement made late last night dissipated quickly, but European and United Kingdom stock market futures ahead of morning trading appear to show that markets could stabilise after a period of turmoil.
Extraordinary times require extraordinary action.
Under pressure to act to bring down borrowing costs for indebted, virus-stricken countries such as Italy, the European Central Bank launched a new, dedicated bond-purchase scheme, bringing its planned purchases for this year to 1.1 trillion euro with the newly agreed buys alone worth 6 per cent of the euro area's GDP. "There are no limits to our commitment to the euro. We are determined to use the full potential of our tools, within our mandate". It will also loosen rules on another programme created to help companies get money, the additional credit claims programme.
The Governing Council will do everything necessary within its mandate.
Crucially, the European Central Bank said it was prepared to increase the size and duration of its purchases if necessary and review any constraints that stand in its way - a likely reference to a cap on owning more than a third of any country's debt.
"To that end, the ECB will ensure that all sectors of the economy can benefit from supportive financing conditions that enable them to absorb this shock.", the bank said.
The ECB added that it is ready to do what is necessary, within its mandate, and can increase measures further if needed.
The spending would last until at least the end of 2020 "to counter the serious risks to the monetary policy transmission mechanism and the outlook for the euro area posed by the outbreak", it said in a statement on Wednesday (18 March).
The move appeared to encourage investors with stock markets rising slightly in response.
In China the CSI 300 index, which tracks large stocks in Shanghai and Shenzhen, fell by 1.3%.
On the other hand, Japan's broad-based Topix index gained 1%, but the blue-chip Nikkei 225 lost 1%.
But Lagarde's eurozone bank also promised that nobody would be left behind in the pandemic counter-measures.