ECB Bond Purchase Program Almost Done?

Though as I write the official release has yet to appear here, the FT is already reporting that the ECB only acquired about €1 billion in sovereign bonds last week, down from the €4 billion or so seen in previous weeks and the €16 billion that occured during its first week. The winding down of the program was quasi-predicted here a few weeks ago.

One interpretation of what has happened with this program is that the ECB reluctantly launched the program despite some internal disagreement to ease tensions in sovereign debt markets, and that once the Stabilisation Mechanism funds were put in place, they have been quick to head for the exit.

Increasingly, it seems unlikely that the ECB will at any point engage in large-scale purchases on the secondary market aimed at keeping access to the primary market open for a specific country such as Ireland. Rather, a closing primary market will instead lead to a country to tapping the Stabilisation Mechanism funds.

Of course, one cannot completely rule out the ECB will re-activate the program on a larger scale if tensions start to mount again. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Update: Official announcement confirms the figure at 796.5 million.

ECB Bond Purchases Falling Off

The ECB has released its latest weekly financial statement, the only source of public information in relation to what’s happening with its sovereign bond purchase program.

It is notable that the program has purchased smaller amounts with each passing week: €16.3 billion during the week ended May 14, €10.4 billion during the week ended May 21, €8.8 billion during the week ended May 28 and €4.9 billion during the week ended June 4. We know that some members of the Governing Council would like the program to end quickly. At this rate of decline, it will be over in a couple of weeks.

The ECB and Quantitative Easing

Commenter Eoin asks a good question “Should the ECB be doing quantitative easing?” My thoughts are as follows.

ECB Sovereign Bond Purchase Program

It’s hard to fully assess at this point the relative importance for the reduction in Irish government bond spreads of the €750 billion bailout fund committed to by the EU and IMF versus the ECB’s decision to purchase sovereign bonds on the secondary market.  However, the ECB’s presence or withdrawal from the secondary bond market may prove very important in relation to Ireland’s ability to keep issuing primary debt and staying out of the hands of an EU-IMF deal.

So, three weeks in, what do we know now about this program? A bit more than a few weeks ago but not as much as I’d like.  This speech from President Trichet appears to be the most comprehensive discussion of the rationale for the program.