Европейский ЦБ объявил о запуске программы масштабного выкупа долговых бумаг правительств Испании и Италии.
Европейский ЦБ объявил о запуске программы масштабного выкупа долговых бумаг правительств Испании и Италии.Об этом сообщает газета «The Wall Street Journal» со ссылкой на свои источники в ЕЦБ. FRANKFURT—European Central Bank officials on Sunday evening will weigh whether to purchase government bonds of Italy and Spain on a massive scale, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that would mark the most dramatic, and controversial, escalation of their nearly two-year effort to stem Europe's unfolding debt crisis. ECB intervention to prop up Italy and Spain would be a watershed in Europe's effort to fight the financial crisis. The central bank has so far insisted that the main responsibility for acting lies with national governments. A decision to buy Italian bonds would be tantamount to accepting that the euro's member states are unable or unwilling to respond effectively, turning the ECB into the lead firefighter—and the euro zone's lender of last resort. That could change the nature of Europe's monetary union. Sunday's meeting, expected to begin in the early evening via a video conference, promises to be contentious. The 23-member ECB board was already divided along north-south lines on limited purchases of Irish and Portuguese bonds at the ECB's meeting last week. At least three central bankers from Northern Europe, including the ECB's powerful German contingent resisted the move, the people said. A decision to expand purchases to Spain and Italy is likely to split along similar lines, with a majority in favor but a German-led faction opposed. Friday's decision by Standard & Poor's to strip the U.S. of its triple-A rating—an action taken after the close of U.S. markets—strengthens the pro-buying faction, given worries about a new bout of contagion sweeping global markets; as does the unenthusiastic reaction in markets to the ECB's decision last week to limit its bond buys to Ireland and Portugal. Those countries, along with Greece, are already under European rescue packages, effectively removing them from private-sector markets for financing. To meaningfully stem contagion to Spain and Italy, the ECB would have significantly ramp up its bond purchases, a step it has been loath to take. It has purchased less than €80 billion of Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds since the program began in May 2010. Italy and Spain, the euro bloc's third and fourth largest economies, together issue roughly €600 billion of government bonds a year. According to BNP Paribas economist Paul Mortimer-Lee, «respectable arguments can be made for €230 [billion] to €400 billion of purchases.» Opponents have plenty of ammunition, too. Buying government bonds puts the ECB dangerously close to the realm of fiscal policy, a particular concern in Germany. Euro-zone politicians engaged in an aggressive campaign over the weekend to spur the ECB into action. «I am calling first and foremost on the sense of responsibility of the European Central Bank. Guardian of the euro, she must intervene massively on the debt market to avoid the implosion of the zone,» French Socialist presidential candidate Martine Aubry wrote in the French newspaper Liberation. Such comments put the ECB in an awkward position. Even if it decides to buy Italian and Spanish bonds for purely its own reasons to improve the functioning of its monetary policy, the decision could be seen as a concession to politicians. A more practical argument against: whether buying bonds even works as a crisis-fighting tool. Despite ECB purchases of their bonds, Greece, Ireland and Portugal all have junk-bond ratings, in addition to being in EU-IMF rescue bailouts. Greece is on the cusp of default, despite the ECB's help.