Eurozone in fresh emergency action to boost economy


Euro sign at ECB building in Frankfurt, Germany, 24 Apr 2020 Image copyright AFP

The European Central Bank has taken further dramatic measures try to boost the eurozone economies, amid their biggest recession since World War Two.

Just months after emergency measures, the central bank said it would increase the size of its bond buying programme by €600bn (£546bn) to €1.35tn.

The programme will run until June 2021, six months longer than planned.

The move will keep borrowing costs low for countries and firms as they face huge budget deficits and recessions.

The purchases support “funding conditions in the real economy, especially for businesses and households,” the ECB said.

The central bank also decided to hold its interest rates at record lows.

The extra bond buying “is likely to push European government bond yields even further into negative territory, and investors in search of positive returns will be forced to take more risk,” said Rachel Winter, associate investment director at investment firm Killik & Co.

The bond purchases are often referred to as Quantitative Easing (QE). When central banks buy bonds with printed money, the value of the bonds rise and borrowing costs drop.

Some market commentators wonder how much money can safely be printed without causing the value of money to decrease.

‘Fiscal box’

“Although inflation is currently very low, these levels of asset purchases are causing some concern about inflation further down the line,” said Ms Winter.

“Economic theory tells us that that inflation is linked to the supply of money in the economy, and if the money supply is being drastically increased to fund quantitative easing then long-term inflation ought to rise too. These fears of long-term inflation have stoked demand for gold recently.”

Gold is trading at about $1,717 (£1,368) an ounce, down from highs of $1,766 earlier in the month, but up compared to a price of $1,324 one year ago.

In many ways, the ECB is playing catch-up with other central banks, said Neil Williams, senior economic adviser at US-based money manager Federated Hermes.

“After lagging the US and UK, the fiscal box is now opening, he said. The planned spending works out at about €100bn a month, higher than the €80bn spent in the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis, he points out.

The UK added £200bn of bond buying in March.