Corporate bonds are the target as ECB makes move

THE EUROPEAN Central Bank is considering buying corporate bonds on the secondary market and may decide on the matter as soon as December with a view to begin purchases early next year, several sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters.

European shares rallied on the news, led by banks and shares in peripheral countries. The euro fell more than half a cent against the dollar and credit indices tightened sharply.

Policymakers are desperate to revive the Eurozone economy, which is barely growing and dogged by low inflation of 0.3 percent, far below the ECB's target of just below two percent.

The ECB has already carried out work on corporate bond buying, which would widen out the private-sector asset-buying programme it began on Monday. It is hoping these measures will foster lending to businesses and thereby support the Eurozone economy.

“The pressure in this direction is high,” said one person familiar with the work inside the ECB.

An ECB spokesman, however, said of such purchases: “The Governing Council has taken no such decision.”

The ECB has already cut interest rates to record lows, offered banks cheap loans and begun buying covered bonds, which are backed by high-quality assets. It also plans to start buying asset-backed securities, or bundled loans, later this year.

Stressing that the ECB alone cannot tackle the Eurozone’s woes, central bank president Mario Draghi has urged crisis-hit countries to get their economies into shape with reforms.

He has also made a thinly veiled appeal for Germany to embark on a round of deficit-funded investment spending. But with Germany wedded to strict budget discipline and other countries taking time to implement structural reforms, markets are looking to the ECB to do more.

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