Banks will repay the European Central Bank 137.159 billion euros in 3-year loans next week, opting to hand back the money early in a sign at least parts of the financial system are returning to health.
The ECB said on Friday 278 banks had decided to repay the loans at the earliest opportunity, on January 30. A total of 523 banks tapped the first of the twin long-term loans in December 2011.
A Reuters poll on Monday pointed to banks returning around 100 billion euros of the first round of the cheap loans, so-called LTROs (long-term refinancing operations).
The ECB funnelled banks a total of more than 1 trillion euros in the twin 3-year, ultra-cheap lending operations in December 2011 and February 2012 - a ploy that ECB President Mario Draghi said "avoided a major, major credit crunch".