Thursday

21st Feb 2019

ECB announces €1 trillion bond-buying plan

  • The ECB plans to buy up to €1 trillion of packaged bank loans in a bid to stimulate lending (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The European Central Bank will start buying bank securities worth up to €1 trillion between now and the end of theyear, president Mario Draghi has announced.

Speaking at a news conference following the monthly meeting of the ECB's governing council in Naples on Thursday (2 October), Draghi said that the bank would buy covered bonds and asset-backed securities (ABS) in the final three months of 2014.

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Although Draghi refused to give a precise figure on the total value of the purchases, he indicated that there were €1 trillion worth of bonds and ABS available on the market.

Draghi also confirmed that the bank would loosen its rules to buy securities with junk ratings issued by Greek and Cypriot banks, but only if the countries stick to their bail-out programmes.

“There must be a programme – if no programme, no purchases,” he said.

The move is part of the ECB's plan to expand its balance sheet back by around €1 trillion, taking it back to the €3 trillion level last seen in early 2012, during the heart of the eurozone crisis, in a bid to encourage increased lending from high-street banks.

But the new scheme is still unlikely to find favour in Germany where finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann have complained that the bank is taking on too much risk.

The Frankfurt-based bank has launched a series of measures in recent weeks to ease credit conditions in the eurozone in its latest bid to stave off a spiral of economic stagnation, high unemployment and very low inflation across the currency bloc.

Draghi also called on governments to do more to stimulate demand in their economies, although he maintained that they should stick to the EU's rules on debts and deficits.

“Euro area countries should not unravel progress already made,” he commented.

Meanwhile, the ECB also confirmed that its headline interest rate would remain unchanged at 0.05 percent.

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