Bloomberg News

ECB Said to Reduce Government Bond Purchases Amid Lower Yields

September 30, 2011

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The European Central Bank scaled back government bond purchases this week as officials stepped up efforts to combat the region’s debt crisis and yields retreated, said three people who deal with the central bank.

The ECB hasn’t bought any European securities in the past four days, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the trades are confidential. An ECB spokesman declined to comment today on any bond buying. The Frankfurt-based central bank said on Sept. 26 that it settled 3.95 billion euros ($5.31 billion) of debt purchases in the week through Sept. 23, down from 9.79 billion euros the previous week.

The central bank has been buying the bonds of the region’s most indebted nations in secondary markets this year to keep borrowing costs from surging amid the region’s debt crisis. Policy makers are increasingly split over the best way to fight the crisis. Juergen Stark said on Sept. 9 that he will resign from the ECB’s Executive Board in protest of the purchases.

“There’s an element of needing to save firepower for when it’s really needed,” said Marc Ostwald, a fixed-income strategist at Monument Securities Ltd. in London. “It’s partly a reflection of a number of council members being resistant to the idea” of buying bonds, he said.

Spain’s 10-year yields slid seven basis points this week to 5.14 percent at 3:05 p.m. in London, after surging to a euro-era record 6.455 percent on Aug. 2. Italian 10-year rates fell eight basis points in the five days to 5.55 percent. They climbed to a euro-era high 6.397 percent on Aug. 5.

The ECB resumed its bond-purchase program on Aug. 4, buying the debt of Irish and Portuguese governments, people familiar with the transactions said then. The Frankfurt-based central bank began the program in May 2010 after markets in the region were rocked by the debt crisis.

Apart from some activity on Sept. 26, nothing has been seen from the ECB this week, one of the three people said yesterday.

--With reporting by Keith Jenkins and Emma Charlton in London. Editors: Nicholas Reynolds, Matthew Brown

To contact the reporter on this story: Lukanyo Mnyanda in London at lmnyanda@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net


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