ECB Hands Italy An Ultimatum: ‘Obey EU Budget Rules Or We Won’t Save You’

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With the Washington Post stepping up to put a floor under US stocks Thursday afternoon by reporting that President Trump would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at next month’s G-20 summit (while the headline soothed the market, it doesn’t change the fact that, as with everything involving the Trump administration, this too remains subject to change), investors have apparently overlooked the latest ominous headlines out of Italy. To wit, Reuters reported that the ECB won’t come to Italy’s rescue if its government or banks run out of cash unless the Italian government first secures a bailout from the European Union. Of course, this would almost certainly require that the populist coalition end its ongoing game of fiscal chicken with Brussels and abandon its  dreams of lowering the retirement age and extending a basic income to the Italian people – policies that would effectively secure a political future for M5S and the League. 

In effect, the ECB’s latest trial balloon is tantamount to blackmail: Either the Italians agree to fall back in line and obey European budgetary guidelines, or the central bank will sit back and watch as bond yields surge, providing the ratings agencies even more ammunition to cut Italian debt to junk – effectively guaranteeing a Greece-style banking crisis as the liquidity taps are turned off. Continue reading

Germany’s Bundesbank opens up to Quantitative Easing

The European Central Bank could buy loans and other assets from banks to help support the eurozone economy, Germany’s Bundesbank said Tuesday, marking a radical softening of its stance on the contested policy.

The ECB has cut interest rates to a record low, and promised to keep them low for some time, having also flooded the banking system with cheap crisis loans. But the eurozone economy is still weak, and inflation remains stuck well below the central bank’s target.

With the debate over possible alternative measures picking up pace, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said the ECB could consider purchasing eurozone government bonds, or top-rated private sector assets.

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Fed Reserve suggests quant easing for EU zone

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A top U.S. Federal Reserve official urged the European Central Bank on Tuesday to consider employing a U.S.-style quantitative easing programme to counter slowing inflation and recession in the euro zone.

The ECB has engaged in bond purchases in the past but has always withdrawn an equivalent amount of money from markets to ensure its interventions are neutral for the money supply, fearful of stoking inflationary pressures. Continue reading