Last Thursday, September 15, 2011 the European Central Bank (ECB) announced its intent – through a joint effort with the Federal Reserve Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank – to provide US dollars to European banks. This will help beleaguered banks continue operations and lending efforts with adequate liquidity, and temporarily subdue the ongoing threat of defaults in the euro region.
The news of the last two debt packages the ECU granted Greece, Ireland and Portugal created concern among US financial institutions and, in particular, money market fund managers. Reaction against potential overexposure to the European financial institutions bankrolling these countries’ debt led to a sell-off, further exacerbating the ECB’s liquidity issues.
The announcement calls for three separate loan auctions by year end (October 12, November 9 and December 7, 2011) for US dollars at a fixed rate for up to three months, allowing banks to purchase up to the amount of collateral they possess. The goal is to provide banks in the region with liquidity through the end of 2011.
This aid to European banks is a relatively low-cost instrument in the Fed’s tool chest that can also help enable US companies operating overseas to receive loans from the local banks. The move is largely considered a short-term measure, serving to calm global markets and buy the ECB – comprised of about 15 different legislative parliaments – time to properly address and agree on a longer-term solution.
Initially, there was a cautious wait-and-see sentiment among financial analysts. The fact that these banks united to take pre-emptive action is perceived as a positive sign, although no one seems to be under the impression it would carry significant impact any further than the end of the year. One analyst pointed out that past government stimulus efforts (i.e., US quantitative easing) also provided only temporary relief.
At issue is the fact that globally, growth is slowing down even further, making it difficult to produce real earnings. This is a tough environment to actually make money and create long-term solutions. However, as the coordinated central bank action indicates, perhaps for now it’s simply enough to demonstrate a united front to ward off worse case scenarios.
(CLICK HERE for analyst reaction to ECB announcement, Bloomberg.com, September 15, 2011)
Please feel free to contact us if you have specific concerns about exposure to European financial institutions.1 We’re happy to discuss alternative options which may be better suited for your goals and risk tolerance.
1Not intended to give tax, accounting or legal advice. Please consult with those professionals to discuss the impact on your unique situation.