MacroScope

TLTRO effect is the ECB’s Waiting for Godot

AWhen banks are offered hundreds of billions of euros worth of what is essentially free money and they don’t take everything they can get, something has gone seriously wrong.

The European Central Bank’s latest offer of cheap cash to banks — only this time tied to loans they provide to private sector businesses rather than with no strings attached — has gotten off to a weak start.

That suggests not only that temporary liquidity for lending may be the wrong approach to boost a flat-lining euro zone economy that is barely generating any inflation, but it also underscores the much more serious lack of demand in the economy.

With only 82.6 billion euros taken up in the first of two tranches it is now clear that the ECB will not be able to find enough takers for the 400 billion euros it has put on offer.

The latest Reuters poll of euro zone money market traders predicts that banks will take up 175 billion in the December auction, leaving one-third of the cash untapped.

Could the Fed follow the Bank of England into ‘funding for lending’?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “might have something up his sleeve next week” when he delivers his semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress: he could hint at a “funding for lending” program similar to what the Bank of England announced last month, according to one long-time Fed watcher.

If the Fed wants to ease again, the first lever they pull might not be more quantitative easing where the Fed buys government bonds to help keep interest rates low in the hope that low rates will foster lending and economic growth, says  Decision Economics economist Cary Leahey.

Bernanke is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and in front of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.