Euro Banks Borrow Less than Expected from ECB

The European Central Bank loaned banks 131.9 billion euros ($161.4 billion) at its 3-month lending auction Wednesday, below expectations, sending the euro higher against major currencies.

Euro bills and coins in cash register tray
Euro bills and coins in cash register tray

The total number of bidders was 171, Reuters said, without elaborating on the identity of the banks that borrowed the largest amounts.

Many analysts expected the results of the ECB's tender to likely determine the course of trading for the stock market in the last day of the second quarter.

On Thursday, European banks need to pay back the ECB 442 billion euros ($539 billion) in emergency loans they took out a year ago, but had the opportunity to refinance at Wednesday's auction.

Barclays Capital analysts estimated before the auction that between 250 billion euros and 300 billion euros of that facility would probably be rolled over with the aid of the three-month facility.

"A smaller roll-over number could be seen as 'good news' for the sector, whilst a larger number may be perceived as 'bad news'," Barclays Capital analysts had said in a research note.

"Higher-than-expected demand for ECB funds could mean that funding problems are spreading beyond peripheral Europe," the analysts wrote. "By contrast, if less ECB money is re-financed, any rally could be focused among the weaker names."

In another sign that it is winding back programs put in place at the beginning of the financial crisis, the ECB said Wednesday that it has ended its covered bonds purchase program today, as announced.

The ECB started buying covered bonds – derivatives backed by the cash flow generated by investments such as mortgages or public sector loans – in July last year

"The aim of the program has been to support a specific financial market segment that is important for the funding banks and that had been particularly affected by the financial crisis," the ECB said in a statement.

"The purchases under the program were to be for a nominal value of ... 60 billion (euros) and they were expected to be fully implemented by 30 June 2010," it added.