The European Central Bank's latest program of lending to banks for a four-year period at a near-zero rate of interest can bring in nearly 700 billion euros ($950 billion) in funding, Bloomberg reported, citing its monthly survey of economists.
ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to talk about the targeted longer-term refinancing operation, or TLTRO, which was announced in June, when he addresses the European parliament on Monday. The TLTRO, which is expected to disburse the first round of funds in September, allows the ECB to grant four-year loans to banks at a fixed interest rate of 0.25 percent to encourage the region's banks to lend to households and private enterprise, which have been identified as weak links in the region's economic recovery.
“The take-up should be large -- the money is cheap and banks should feel no stigma about accepting a free lunch,” Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Merrion Capital in Dublin, told Bloomberg, adding: “With any luck, Draghi’s next problem will not come until 2018, when 1 trillion euros needs refinancing.”
Once the loans begin in September, the banks are expected to borrow 305 billion euros ($415 billion) compared to the ECB’s cap of 400 billion euros ($545 billion), Bloomberg reported, citing the survey's findings. The amount banks borrow is expected to increase to 710 billion euros ($968 billion) through 2015 and 2016.
“On the one hand, the program provides a strong incentive to expand lending, especially for banks with higher funding costs,” Kristian Toedtmann, a senior economist at Dekabank in Frankfurt, said according to Bloomberg, adding: “On the other hand, there are other impediments to lending, such as a lack of capital or macroeconomic risks. But in total, the program should contribute to a pickup.”
While the focus will be on Draghi’s address Monday, the ECB has also come under scrutiny for propping up the euro, which has created problems for the region's exporters. Reports have also suggested that the bank may not be willing to raise interest rates, which it kept unchanged in July.
The TLTRO is expected to run alongside other stimulus measures such as a negative deposit rate and the extension of unlimited short-term liquidity until at least 2016.
However, according to Bloomberg, fewer people expect the ECB to start an asset-purchase program, also known as quantitative easing, by the fourth quarter of 2014. The latest survey put the number at 44 percent, down from 52 percent in last month’s survey.
Draghi has said that asset purchases could be used if the medium-term outlook for inflation worsens, while ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny has said quantitative easing “is not the really relevant discussion we have now,” according to Bloomberg.