The European Central Bank said Thursday it would “significantly” step up the pace of its pandemic bond buys to soothe market jitters about a recent rise in government bond yields.
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The EU move over the next quarter is aimed at “preventing a tightening of financing conditions” while the eurozone economy is still fragile, the bank said in a statement.
The ECB’s 1.85 trillion euro pandemic emergency bond purchasing programme (PEPP) is the bank’s main tool to help the eurozone weather the coronavirus shock.
While no changes were expected to the scheme’s size or duration, many observers had said the bank could decide to “frontload” asset purchases over the coming months to respond to a recent global bond sell-off that has spooked investors.
Attention now shifts to Lagarde’s 2:30 pm (1330 GMT) virtual press conference where she will likely be quizzed on just how worried the ECB is about the recent rise in bond yields.
The higher European yields are largely seen as a knock-on effect from an even steeper surge in US Treasury yields, fuelled by optimism about the US economy as well as signs of higher inflation on the horizon.
Yields serve as a guide for bank lending rates, and the ECB is eager to avert a premature end to low borrowing costs that could slow the euro area’s rebound.
In Thursday’s statement, the ECB said it would maintain “an ample degree of monetary accommodation” and stressed that it stood ready to “adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate”.
To boost growth and push up anaemic inflation, the Frankfurt institute has long kept interest rates unchanged at ultra-low levels, including a bank deposit facility rate at -0.50 percent — meaning banks essentially pay to park excess cash with the ECB.
It has also offered super-cheap loans to banks and is still running a pre-pandemic bond-buying scheme to the tune of 20 billion euros a month.
The measures are aimed at keeping credit flowing in the eurozone to encourage spending and investment.