FRANKFURT, Germany – European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet offered struggling Greece, Portugal and Ireland a little bit of relief Thursday by signaling that the bank would not raise interest rates as fast as the markets had been expecting.

Though the bank left its key rate unchanged at 1.25 percent, as expected, at a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, the euro suffered one of its worst days this year after Trichet signaled that another rate hike next month was not likely.

He said the bank would “monitor very closely” all risks to inflation, language that economists say indicates no rate increase at next month’s meeting. Though an increase in July is still expected, the pause gives some breathing space to the eurozone’s three bailout victims, particularly to Greece as it tries to dispel fears that it will renege on its debt deals.

Investors had been expecting Trichet to say the ECB was practicing “strong vigilance” over inflation, which in the past has been interpreted as a rate increase the following month.