The European Central Bank will release details Thursday of a new asset-buying plan meant to reinvigorate the euro zone economy and reverse deflation.
The ECB plans to buy asset-backed securities (ABS), basically bundles of loans, to increase lending to small- and medium-sized businesses that support the bulk of the region’s economy. Banks put together ABS by pooling loans made to companies or consumers to buy homes, cars and credit cards and then sell the loan packages to other banks, insurers, pension funds and now even the ECB. But for the plan to apply across all member states, the ECB may need to buy ABS below the standard it usually requires as guarantees to repay a loan in the event of a default.
That has caused pushback in some member states, particularly Germany. But the weak outlook for the euro zone economy convinced a majority of the ECB’s 24 council members that they need to act. This week data showed manufacturing slowed in September and inflation fell to 0.3 percent, far lower than the ECB’s medium-term target of just below 2 percent.
Earlier this month, the central bank cut interest rates to record lows and said it would buy ABS and bonds to add money to the economy and lower borrowing costs. No rate moves are expected Thursday.
ECB President Mario Draghi has appealed to governments to back the central bank’s purchase plan with guarantees for some riskier ABS bundles, which would encourage buyers, but France and Germany have opposed such state guarantees, worried the ECB would buy “junk”-rated Greek and Cypriot bank loans.
A Reuters poll on Monday showed traders expect the ECB to buy 200 million euros of ABS and bonds over a year.