European Central Bank

Claire Jones

Digging into the details

One of the most important financial events of this year is the European Central Bank’s Asset Quality Review. The review is the opening act in the central bank’s health check of the eurozone’s biggest lenders, which goes by the glamorous title of the Comprehensive Assessment.

The ECB today published details of the second phase of its AQR, which will see national regulators, under the scrutiny of the ECB, scour the balance sheets of the region’s 128 biggest lenders to see what’s lurking in the darkest parts of their loan books. Unlike most earlier exercises, the exercise will focus on those murkiest of corners — what are known as lenders’ Level 3 assets.

Here’s a quick Q&A on what that entails. Read more

Claire Jones

Forward guidance is central banking’s latest fad. Since the nadir of the crisis, all four of the major central banks have adopted their own version of it.

But is this fashion for keeps? That depends on whether the policy works.

Guidance involves saying what you’re going to do, before doing it. This, central banks hope, will temper markets’ uncertainty about what happens to interest rates.

Whether it works or not, then, depends on how much markets trust policy makers to do what they say they’re going to do. If investors think policy makers are lying, or central banks lose credibility by reneging on their pledges, then the guidance could harm reputations for a long time to come.

So does it work? According to a paper, published by the Bank for International Settlements today, it does. Well, sort of.

Yet the research also flags that if forward guidance does succeed, it could end up doing more harm than good. Read more

Claire Jones

January’s eurozone inflation number, out earlier on Monday, showed price pressures in the currency bloc are not quite as subdued as first feared, registering 0.8 per cent – a touch higher than Eurostat’s initial estimate of 0.7 per cent.

It’s hardly a game changer: inflation is still less than half the 2 per cent target. But the slightly better figure will reduce pressure on the European Central Bank a little after it faced renewed calls to ease policy following the release of the flash estimate.

However, the detail of this morning’s release suggest disinflationary pressures might be even worse than feared. This excellent chart from Marchel Alexandrovich of Jefferies International shows why: Read more

Welcome to our live coverage of ECB president Mario Draghi monthly press conference. Earlier, to the surprise of some, the ECB kept its rates on hold. Follow the questions and reaction live here with capital markets editor Ralph Atkins and Emily Cadman

 

How will sovereign bonds will be handled in the euro area’s forthcoming banking health checks? This is a vexed question and markets seize ravenously upon any clues.

Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s president, offered a flicker of information on Tuesday in a letter to Sharon Bowles, the chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee. Sovereign exposures will indeed bit included in the stress test, he said – confirming previous declarations from the ECB.

However, it is “not foreseen” that bonds in the held-to-maturity category of banks’ books will be adjusted to reflect market valuations – otherwise known as marked to market. That will come as a relief to banks that are holding portfolios that have slumped in value, but analysts caution that it is far too soon for lenders to relax. Read more

ECB president Mario Draghi started his monthly press conference shortly after 1.30 GMT. Earlier, as expected, the ECB left rates on hold. Follow the questions and reaction live here with capital markets editor Ralph Atkins and Emily Cadman

 

Claire Jones

European Central Bank presidents, current and former, are renowned for their fondness to “never pre-commit”. Even when the ECB opted to jump on the forward guidance bandwagon, it did so in a much more halfhearted way than its counterparts.

However, a few months ago Mario Draghi made quite a firm pledge to tell us by the end of the autumn how the ECB intended to go about producing an “account” of the governing council’s policy deliberations. Will Mr Draghi end up breaking his promise? Read more

Mario Draghi

Today the ECB cut its benchmark main refinancing rate to 0.25 per cent.

ECB president Mario Draghi is giving his monthly press conference

Follow the questions and reaction live here with capital markets editor Ralph Atkins and Emily Cadman

 

Mario Draghi

By Emily Cadman and Claire Jones

Hello and welcome to the FT’s live blog on Mario Draghi European Central Bank’s press conference.

Earlier the ECB kept its main refinancing rate on hold at 0.50 per cent as it tries to support the eurozone’s fledgling recovery. Mr Draghi will discuss the rate decision at a press conference in Paris at 1:30pm BST, when he is also expected to address the central bank’s stance on providing more liquidity to commercial banks as the maturity of two previous sets of cheap loans looms.

 

Michael Steen

Blue sky thinking reaches Frankfurt (Getty)

Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, has revived the idea of “reform contracts” — a policy that emerged in Brussels wonk circles last year and entails the EU contractually binding eurozone countries to economic reforms.

Speaking in Berlin on Monday, Mr Draghi told an audience of businesspeople that the eurozone needed two things to achieve sustainable growth: stabilisation and greater competitiveness.

To achieve the latter, he mentioned the need for “better ways of measuring economic performance – for example, more structural indicators of competitiveness.” And went on: Read more