European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank would "consider" unconventional steps to support the euro, rattling markets.
Stock indexes in France, Germany, and Britain were in positive territory before the announcement. They quickly retreated after the bank said it would keep its overnight, bank-to-bank interest rate unchanged and consider other measures.
"The Governing Council may consider undertaking further non-standard monetary policy measures according to what is needed to repair monetary policy transmission," Draghi said at a press conference.
The let down started with high expectations. Last week, Draghi made headlines with his remark that the ECB would do "whatever it takes to preserve the euro."
Investors expected a new bond-purchasing mandate would be announced. Instead, Draghi urged European governments to "activate the European Financial Stability Facility/European Stability Mechanism in the bond market when exceptional financial market circumstances and risks to financial stability exist."
In prepared remarks, Draghi said inflation in the eurozone was likely to fall under 2 percent in 2013. He also said, "further intensification of financial market tensions has the potential to affect the balance of risks for both growth and inflation on the downside."