Saturday, March 31, 2012

Euro Zone Raises Ceiling on Its 'Firewall'

Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2012

Euro-zone finance ministers on Friday agreed to boost the bloc's bailout lending limit to €700 billion ($930 billion), choosing the least ambitious option on the table for reinforcing its anticrisis "firewall," one some in Europe fear won't be enough to prevent a reawakening of the region's financial turmoil.

After several months of relative calm, tensions are returning to the European government bond markets. Yields on Italian and Spanish debt are rising, as the effects of the European Central Bank's huge infusions of cheap bank funding, which started in December, appear to be waning. Financial markets, governments in the Group of 20 and the International Monetary Fund have been pressing for a convincing increase of the bailout capacity to prevent the crisis from returning in full force.

But Germany, the euro zone's paymaster, beat back lobbying for a more ambitious increase of the bloc's two bailout funds, which have been capped at €500 billion. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, backed by the euro zone's weaker economies, had argued that raising the lending cap to €940 billion would offer a convincing response to the crisis.

The expansion option chosen by finance ministers at their meeting here Friday will have to be ratified by the 17 euro-zone member parliaments.


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