MacroScope

Will rounding cents bring euro zone down?

January 24, 2014

The 18-country euro zone has had a rough ride in the past 6 years, and even with the glimmers of good news reaching the darkest corners of the debt crisis, the European Central Bank has been anything but ready to sound a crisis-over siren.

Right after ECB President Mario Draghi warned against undue optimism, the central bank has identified a new threat to the common currency’s integrity – rounding up or down small change.

Belgium plans to allow retailers to round 1 and 2-cent coins to the closest five cents, in a similar fashion as Finland and the Netherlands already do. But the ECB had harsh words against such going-it-alone moves, published in a legal opinion published on its Internet site.

“With a view to preserving the unity and integrity of the single monetary area, the ECB therefore recommends that any rounding rules are established in a harmonised manner at Union, rather than national level,” it said.

Even so, not all is lost. The ECB welcomed the fact that the smallest coins will remain legal tender in Belgium, and urged the authorities to ensure that the coins stay widely available.

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