Driven by the Markets?: ECB Sovereign Bond Purchases and the Securities Markets Programme
AbstractAfter the dramatic rescue package for the euro area, the governing council of the European Central Bank decided to purchase European government bonds - to ensure an "orderly monetary policy transmission mechanism". Many observers argued that, by bond purchases, national fiscal policies could from now on dominate the common monetary policy. This note argues that they are quite right. The ECB has indeed become more dependent in political and financial terms. The ECB has decidedto sterilise its bond purchases - compensating those purchases through sales of other bonds or money market instruments to keep the overall money supply unaffected. This is to counter accusations that the ECB is monetizing government debt. This note addresses how effective these sterilisation policies are. One problem inherent in the sterilization approach is that it reshuffles only the liability side of the ECB's balance sheet. It is not well-suited to either diminish the bloated ECB balance sheet or to remove the potentially toxic covered or sovereign bonds from it. In addition, the intake of potentially toxic assets as collateral and by outright purchases in the central bank balance sheet artificially keeps the asset prices up and does not prevent the (quite intransparent) risk transfer from one group of countries to another to occur. Finally, sterilization takes place in a setting of still ultra-lax monetary policies, i.e. of new liquidity-enhancing operations with unlimited allotment, and, hence, does not appear to be overly irrelevant. A credible strategy to deal with the financial crisis should deal primarily with the asset side of the ECB balance sheet. This note also addresses negative side effects of the SMP such as, for instance, the fact that the ECB is currently curbing real returns at the bond markets through its bond purchases. Currently, the real return of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian bonds only amounts to 3 to 3.5 percent. This is almost certainly not enough to attract private capital these countries are heavily dependent on. The most worrisome aspect is that the euro area has stumbled into a perpetuation of unconventional monetary policies by the execution of the SMP. Of course, the intentions are to bail out banks (but not just banks) and to support governments with issuance. What is difficult to see at the momentis how, once started, it will be able to stop. Finally, the ECB has been too silent about the following key questions which tends to frighten potential private investors in euro area sovereign bonds: What exactly is the composition of the sovereign bonds the ECB is buying? Which criteria are applied to select bonds to purchase? How is the ECB's bond purchase strategy characterized in cases and periods of primary issuance? How long is the SMP going to last and what amounts may be spent?
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 1040.
Length: 15 p.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Accountability; bail-out; bond purchases; central bank independence; insolvency risk; Securities Markets Programme; transparency;
Other versions of this item:
- Ansgar Belke, 2010. "Driven by the markets? ECB sovereign bond purchases and the securities markets programme," Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 45(6), pages 357-363, November.
- Ansgar Belke, 2010. "Driven by the Markets? ECB Sovereign Bond Purchases and the Securities Markets Programme," Ruhr Economic Papers 0194, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
- G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
- E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
- E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
- E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
- E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-08-14 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBA-2010-08-14 (Central Banking)
- NEP-EEC-2010-08-14 (European Economics)
- NEP-MAC-2010-08-14 (Macroeconomics)
- NEP-MON-2010-08-14 (Monetary Economics)
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- Jerger, Jürgen & Röhe, Oke, 2012. "Die Unabhängigkeit von Zentralbanken - Ökonomische Begründung, Messung und Zukunftsperspektive," University of Regensburg Working Papers in Business, Economics and Management Information Systems 464, University of Regensburg, Department of Economics.
- Eichler, Stefan & Hielscher, Kai, 2012. "Does the ECB act as a lender of last resort during the subprime lending crisis?: Evidence from monetary policy reaction models," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 552-568.
- Schwäbe, Carsten, 2013. "Unkonventionelle Geldpolitik: Warum die Europäische Zentralbank ihre Unabhängigkeit nicht verloren hat," CIW Discussion Papers 3/2013, University of Münster, Center for Interdisciplinary Economics (CIW).
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