European Central Bank: More help available if needed

Europe’s central bank is attempting to reassure markets it will help countries tackle the impact of the coronavirus.

Lagarde - reuters
The ECB has had to clarify comments made by new chief Christine Lagarde over the role of the central bank in helping national economies deal with the impact of the coronavirus [Ralph Orlowski/File Photo/Reuters]

The European Central Bank will intervene in government bond markets if needed, ECB policymaker Robert Holzmann said on Monday, as Governing Council members sought to reassure markets the bank would act to help countries tackle the impact of the coronavirus.

The ECB has been engaged in a concerted rearguard action since President Christine Lagarde upset investors and fellow policymakers on Thursday by saying it was not the bank’s job to help virus-stricken countries such as Italy on the debt market.

“If there is a need to intervene in the area of government bonds, measures will be taken,” Austrian central bank chief Holzmann told a news conference in Vienna.

Italian board member Fabio Panetta said in an interview published on Sunday that the eurozone’s central bank was ready to rein in “unjustified” spreads between member countries’ eurozone bond yields and even beef up its debt purchases.

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The ECB provided fresh stimulus on Thursday to support the eurozone economy as the pandemic hit activity, and joined other major central banks on Sunday in offering cheap US dollars in a bid to prevent global lending markets seizing up.

The US Federal Reserve also cut its key rate to near zero on Sunday in a move reminiscent of the steps taken just over a decade ago in the wake of the financial crisis.

Other central banks are also pulling out the stops to prevent a global recession as the coronavirus paralyses economies.

The ECB has said it would buy an extra 120 billion euros ($133bn) worth of bonds by the end of the year in response to the pandemic, on top of the 20 billion euros it buys every month to support inflation in the eurozone.

Source: Reuters