Arab Today, arab today ecb brings out its \bazooka\ to save euro
Last Updated : GMT 08:53:10
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

ECB brings out its \'bazooka\' to save euro

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today ECB brings out its \'bazooka\' to save euro

Frankfurt - AFP

The European Central Bank Thursday unveiled its latest hotly awaited scheme to douse the crisis fires burning across the eurozone that threaten to engulf the global economy. But ECB chief Mario Draghi insisted governments also need to do their bit to save the euro. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy met in Madrid to dispel fears about a possible break-up of the single currency, Draghi unveiled a new masterplan to bring down soaring borrowing costs which crisis-wracked countries say prevent them from getting back on their feet. Investors appeared to be convinced the scheme could work and stock markets across Europe jumped and Spanish and Italian borrowing costs tumbled on the news. In one of the most highly anticipated meetings in ECB history, the bank left its key interest rates at their current all-time lows, as most had expected. Its main interest rate was left unchanged at 0.75 percent and the ECB also downgraded its growth forecasts for the 17-nation bloc. But the focus of markets\' attention was on neither of those, but on Draghi\'s new revamped programme to buy bonds issued by heavily indebted eurozone countries -- a scheme named \"Outright Monetary Transactions.\"The OMTs will replace the ECB\'s previous Securities Market Programme or SMP, first launched in May 2010. The SMP has come under heavy fire, particularly in Germany, for being seen as blurring the lines between monetary policy, which is supposed to be free from all political influence in the euro area, and fiscal policy. The head of the German central bank or Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, in particular, has made no bones about his objections to the bond purchases. Critics say they are tantamount to monetary financing, where the central bank prints money to pay off a country\'s debt, which is expressly forbidden under the ECB\'s statutes. Draghi told reporters there was one \"No\" vote to the OMT programme on the 23-member governing council, saying: \"I will leave you to guess who that was.\" But he insisted the new programme did not overstep the ECB\'s mandate. The OMTs \"will enable us to address severe distortions in government bond markets which originate from, in particular, unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro,\" Draghi said. \"We will do whatever it takes\" to keep the eurozone together, Draghi said. Unlike its forerunner, the SMP, the OMTs would be subject to strict conditions and the ECB was not offering crisis-hit countries a blank cheque, Draghi explained. Countries wishing to benefit from the OMTs would first have to apply for a bailout from one of the eurozone\'s two rescue funds, the EFSF or ESM, he said. And any such cash from those funds is conditional on governments meeting agreed reform targets.\"The adherence of governments to their commitments and the fulfilment by the EFSF/ESM of their role are necessary conditions for our outright transactions to be conducted and to be effective,\" the ECB said. The ECB would also only buy bonds with maturities of up to three years, but there was no limit set on the volume of bonds to be purchased, Draghi said. Analysts welcomed the OMT scheme. \"Draghi has delivered,\" said Berenberg Bank chief economist Holger Schmieding. \"After one year in which the ECB allowed turmoil in sovereign bond markets to obstruct the transmission of its monetary policy, the ECB is now addressing the core issue in the eurozone crisis,\" he said. The ECB has signalled \"more clearly and in much more detail than before that it will not let any solvent euro member go bust,\" Schmieding said. Marie Diron, senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Eurozone Forecast, said one important element of the new programme was that the ECB would be treated on par with other investors if it came to a restructuring of a country\'s debt, which had not been the case with Greece. And unlike the SMP, a country breakdown of bond purchases would be published. \"Such a high degree of transparency is welcome. Publishing the country breakdown will probably enhance the effectiveness of the bond purchases since the publication will flag where the ECB sees the largest distortions,\" Diron said. ING Belgium economist Carsten Brzeski said: \"All in all, the ECB has presented a big new bazooka which should help buying time. This is probably the furthest the ECB can go to help governments. The ball is now back with eurozone governments.\"

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