Thursday, August 18, 2011
The European Central Bank as a lender of last resort
August 18, 2011
With the Eurozone crisis casting doubt over the solvency of Spain and Italy, the ECB has once again intervened to provide liquidity in the government bond markets. This column asks the question: Is there such a role for the ECB as a lender of last resort?
In October 2008 the ECB discovered that there is more to central banking than price stability. This discovery occurred when it was forced to massively increase liquidity to save the banking system. The ECB did not hesitate to serve as lender of last resort to the banking system, despite fears of moral hazard, inflation, and the fiscal implications of its lending.
Things were very different when the sovereign debt crisis erupted in 2010. This time the ECB was gripped by hesitation. A stop-and-go policy ensued in which it provided liquidity in the government bond markets at some moments and withdrew it at others. When the crisis hit Spain and Italy in July 2011, the ECB was compelled again to provide liquidity in the government bond markets.
This behaviour raises the question: Is there a role for the ECB as a lender of last resort in the government bond market?
Posted by Yulie Foka-Kavalieraki at 2:00 PM