Hundreds of thousands of mortgage holders are unlikely to get a further reduction in their monthly bills with the European Central Bank expected to leave interest rates unchanged this week.

The ECB had been expected to announce a further 0.25% drop in the interest rate – representing a saving of about €45 a month on a €300,000 mortgage.

However ECB president Mario Draghi is now expected to hold rates at the current 1% level on Thursday.

It will mean no change for those on tracker mortgages, who have already seen their mortgage payments drop twice since Draghi took over in the autumn.

President Mario Draghi’s remarks at his post-decision news conference on Thursday will be scrutinized for clues about how fast the bank thinks the European economy is slowing — and what further steps it might deploy against the crisis caused by too much debt in the 17 countries that use the euro as their currency.

The bank lowered its key rate by a quarter point at the November and December meetings, the first chaired by Draghi after he replaced Jean-Claude Trichet, in a move that was seen as a signal of a more flexible approach to fighting the crisis. It also made unlimited amounts of cheap, three-year loans available to banks to steady the banking system.

Economists point to recent stabilising economic indicators as reasons the 23-member governing council might wait before cutting again. Also, they note that Draghi indicated last month that some members of the council wanted to postpone the December rate cut.

Surprise decisions, however, cannot be ruled out, especially given recent big changes in top ECB leadership.

The European Central Bank is likely to hold interest rates at its monthly meeting after two straight months of cuts, analysts believe, with some expecting Europe’s debt crisis and a deteriorating economy to push the bank soon to take its key rate below the current 1 percent level.

President Mario Draghi’s remarks at his post-decision news conference Thursday will be scrutinized for clues about how fast the bank thinks the European economy is slowing — and what further steps it might deploy against the crisis caused by too much debt in the 17 countries that use the euro as their currency.

The bank lowered its key rate by a quarter point at the November and December meetings, the first chaired by Draghi after he replaced Jean-Claude Trichet, in a move that was seen as a signal of a more flexible approach to fighting the crisis. It also made unlimited amounts of cheap, three-year loans available to banks to steady the banking system.

Economists point to recent stabilizing economic indicators as reasons the 23-member governing council might wait before cutting again. Also, they note that Draghi indicated last month that some members of the council wanted to postpone the December rate cut.

Still a chance of cuts in first quarter

Surprise decisions, however, cannot be ruled out, especially given recent big changes in top ECB leadership.

In addition to Draghi replacing Trichet in November, former Germany deputy finance minister Joerg Asmussen and former deputy director general of the French Treasury Benoit Coeure took seats on the six-member executive board that runs the bank day to day.

Additionally, the job of supervising the ECB’s staff economists last week was assigned to Belgian executive board member Peter Praet — the first time a non-German has held the post since the bank was founded in 1998.

Praet’s appointment is significant because German predecessors Otmar Issing and Juergen Stark represented their country’s conservative economics tradition stressing low inflation — and were seen as strong voices to keep rates higher.

Now economists are trying to gauge whether the bank will make more cuts in the coming months. A number think the bank could take its refinancing rate as low as 0.5 percent by the end of the first quarter.

That would put it in territory now occupied by the U.S. Federal Reserve, whose key rate is 0-0.15 percent, and the Bank of England, which is also to set its rates Thursday, where the benchmark rate is 0.5 percent.