ECB Doesn’t Intend Faster Bond-Buying To Mean More Stimulus

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The European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. A push for a ECB green lending program to help the fight against climate change has run into skepticism despite attracting the interest of President Christine Lagarde. , Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Most European Central Bank policy makers have no intention of expanding their 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.2 trillion) emergency stimulus program despite their pledge on Thursday to step up the pace of bond buying to keep yields in check, according to officials familiar with the matter.

The Governing Council’s decision to make purchases at a “significantly higher pace” over the next three months means buying debt at a faster rate than the program’s timeline suggests, the officials said, asking not to be identified. Buying would then be slowed if the economic outlook allows.

The pandemic purchase program is due to run until at least the end of March 2022, and has almost 1 trillion euros of firepower left. The ECB says it can be “recalibrated” — ie increased — if needed.

Policy makers agreed that there had been some tightening of financial conditions as a consequence of higher yields in recent weeks, though a majority of those who expressed their views also said they weren’t too concerned, according to the officials.

The ECB will monitor financing conditions through a heat map presented at Wednesday’s Governing Council seminar, the officials said. The dashboard comprises indicators including 10-year government-bond yields, returns on bank bonds and debt of non-financial corporations, as well as bank lending rates that flash green, yellow or red depending on the level of stress.

An ECB spokesperson declined to comment.

The euro held onto its gains, trading up 0.4% at $1.1972 at 6:59 p.m. Frankfurt time.

Global yields have risen in part because of the speedy recovery in the U.S., fueled by the nation’s $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus package. In contrast, the euro zone has been slow with vaccinations and its fiscal aid is smaller, meaning the economy may not be ready to cope with higher borrowing costs.

Yields fell Thursday after the ECB’s policy announcement, which didn’t give a specific pace of purchases.

Greg Fuzesi, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., says the central bank could easily increase buying to 80 billion euros a month, up from around 60 billion euros a month so far this year.

“That may suffice if today’s decision is seen as a credible signal to intervene and put some sort of flexible lid on market rates,” he said in a report. “The signal may be more important than the actual quantities.”

– Bloomberg

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