Today the ECB hosed the European banks down with long term money. The Germans may be able to stop them lending directly to near bankrupt countries, but they can’t stop them lending to commercial banks. The Treaty allows the one and bans the other.
The money lent achieves two purposes. It eases liquidity for the banks, who can borrow very little in the usual way in the inter bank markets, where fear stalks the computer screens and dealing rooms. It allows the banks to be more relaxed where they have to refinance their own bond loans, where these come up for renewal over the next twelve months. The ECB has come to the rescue.
Some think they will buy sovereign bonds of the weaker countries – they hope that the ECB has created a kind of QE by the back door. It would be imprudent for the banks to buy too much weak sovereign debt. What they gain on the interest payments they may lose on capital account if fears strengthen for repayment.
Meanwhile Moodys has reminded us that the UK’s AAA rating needs to be looked at from time to time in the light of the figures. They have not put the UK on negative watch or forecast a downgrade. It is just a reminder that the UK is a heavily indebted country that needs to succeed with its deficit reduction programme. Today’s figures of £18 billion for last month are presented as a success, remaining on target. They are also a reminder that the targets for this year still allow very large borrowings. It gets tougher from here.