FRANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – Political and financial leaders gave their first sign of readiness to battle a debt crisis gone global when the European Central Bank signaled on Sunday it would start buying Italian and Spanish debt, a critical move to quell a bond rout that has rocked financial markets.
The European Central Bank decision would be aimed at calming markets grown increasingly doubtful about Europe’s ability to deal with its debt issues, a strikingly parallel concern to that which led ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to knock U.S. debt down from “risk free” AAA status to AA-plus.
Meanwhile, finance chiefs from Group of Seven industrial nations were to confer by telephone late on Sunday– and possibly issue a statement afterward — to try to soothe anxious investors after a week in which $2.5 trillion of market value was wiped out.
Any statement would be timed to precede the opening of trading in Tokyo, the first major market to open on Monday, at 9 a.m. local time (0000 GMT/8:00 p.m. EDT Sunday).
ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said in a statement after discussions with his Governing Council on Sunday that the central bank welcomes new steps taken by Italy and Spain on fiscal and structural reforms, and hence it would “actively implement” its bond-buying program. A monetary source said this means it is ready to start buying up the debt of these two countries.