Ex-ECB's Juergen Stark Says ECB's Balance Sheet "Gigantic", Collateral Quality "Shocking"
The German criticism of a mess they themselves have enabled (and benefit from via peripheral current account deficits funded via TARGET2 as shown previously here) at the ECB continues, and following public protests by Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann about recent ECB activity, it is the turn of former ECB executive board member Juergen Stark to take center stage. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine, warned that following the massive expansion in the ECB's balance sheet, in which it is clear to anyone that the ECB will accept used candy bar wrappers as collateral, that "the balance sheet of the euro system, isn't only gigantic in size but also shocking in quality."
Of course, with the ECB now the bad banks' bad bank, this is not at all surprising. Keep in mind that the recent $1.3 trillion balance sheet expansion was supposedly not the equivalent of "printing money" because the ECB made the cash available in the form of a loan in exchange for collateral. The problem is that the ECB accepted literally everything that was not nailed down and proceeded to give 100 cents on the dollar for some unamortized book value associated with it. The end result was the already documented here first encroaching ECB initiated margin calls which may or may not be an added twist in the European liquidity situation. However one thing is certain: the quality of the ECB's balance sheet has deteriorated massively, as the European central bank rushes to catch up to the Fed in terms of asset "quality" backing the currency.
Marketwatch has more on the FAZ interview:
[Stark] added the structure of the balance sheet is a cause for concern because increasingly short-term debt claims are being replaced by long-term ones and this will make it more difficult for the bank to reverse its loose monetary policy.
With his comments, the bank's former hawk Stark is backing Germany's central bank president Jens Weidmann. The head of the Bundesbank told Der Spiegel weekly magazine over the weekend that requirements for banks' cheap loans have been "very generous" and the program calms the situation in the short term, but this calm could be deceptive. He was concerned about the collateral requirements that the banks had to provide.
The ECB's balance sheet soared past the EUR3 trillion level last week partly because the bank has flooded markets with over EUR500 billion in cheap loans for banks.
Of course, this long-term deterioration in prospects for yet another central bank means that it has bought a short-term reprieve, as has been reflected by rising asset prices. However, what happens when the effect of this latest dilution in the value of the paper currency fades, or worse, when the ECB's balance sheet becomes non-performing and confidence in the montary authority is lost?
Well, since that will be "someone else' problem" why worry?
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