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6th Apr 2020

Coronavirus

ECB promises (almost) whatever it takes

The European Central Bank (ECB) has promised to buy up to €750bn more of government and private bonds in a new "Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme".

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).

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  • 'Whatever it takes', former ECB president Mario Draghi said in 2012 (Photo: Pixabay)

But it promised more if needed.

"The [ECB] governing council will do everything necessary within its mandate," it also said.

"The governing council is fully prepared to increase the size of its asset purchase programmes and adjust their composition, by as much as necessary and for as long as needed"," it said.

"Extraordinary times require extraordinary action. There are no limits to our commitment to the euro. We are determined to use the full potential of our tools, within our mandate," ECB president Christine Lagarde added on Twitter.

"Full support for the exceptional measures taken this evening by the ECB," French president Emmanuel Macron said.

"It is now up to us, the European states, to step up to the plate via our budgetary interventions and to show a bigger financial solidarity at the heart of the euro zone," he said.

The ECB statement on doing "everything necessary within its mandate" echoed its former intervention in the sovereign debt crisis.

The bank would do "whatever it takes" to save the euro, Lagarde's predecessor in the post, Mario Draghi, said in 2012.

But Lagarde's statement (adding "within its mandate") was less impressive than Draghi's.

It also came after her gaffe, last week, when she said that the ECB's initial, €120bn pandemic crisis package was not designed to "close spreads" - the difference in price between healthy government bonds, such as Germany's, and distressed ones, such as Italy's.

Meanwhile, borrowing costs continued to rise for Italy prior to her speech on Wednesday evening.

And markets continued to lose value afterwards, despite an initial fillip caused by her new €750bn pledge.

The EU's bailout of banks and state treasuries, mixed with austerity measures, in the financial crisis brought accusations of favouring elites.

But Lagarde's eurozone bank also promised that nobody would be left behind in the pandemic counter-measures.

"The ECB will ensure that all sectors of the economy can benefit from supportive financing conditions that enable them to absorb this shock," her bank said.

"This applies equally to families, firms, banks, and governments," it added.

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