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ECB hands out €529-billion billion in loans to banks - by Eric Reguly

European banks gorged themselves on a second helping of cheap European Central Bank loans as the ECB moved with alacrity once again to avert a banking liquidity squeeze and take the edge off the sovereign debt crisis.

On Wednesday morning, the ECB lent €529-billion ($712-billion U.S.) of 1-per-cent money to 800 banks, which was slightly above the consensus figure but well below one or two predictions that as much as €1-trillion would be soaked up. In the last auction, in December, the ECB loaned €489-billion to 523 banks.

The loans, known as the long-term refinancing operation (LTRO), were introduced by then-new ECB president Mario Draghi late last year as the bank’s prime effort to prevent a Lehman Bros.-style banking collapse on home ground. While the ECB had hosed out cheap loans in the past, under Mr. Draghi’s predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, they were short-term loans. The new loans have been for an unprecedented three years

For more: ECB hands out $712-billion in loans to banks - The Globe and Mail

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