So it starts - the ECB has just announced its request for bids for the next all important 3 year (1092 Day) Discount Window, pardon, LTRO operation, which is fully priced in now (and following which the market will look toward the Fed for future easing - enter Bernanke and his Humphrey Hawkins testimony tomorrow), and which will create even more negative carry for Euro banks, as the insolvent hedge fund formerly known as the ECB lends out cash at 1% (in exchange for what can generously be described as used candy bar wrappers) and pays back 0.25% on the same cash redeposited back at the ECB. For the results of operation tune in at 11:15 am tomorrow local time or 5:15 Eastern. The only practical result of this operation will be the expansion of the ECB's deposit facility to the mid €700 billions.
As for what the final size of the LTRO will be, just ask your hotdog vendor: he has as much guidance as anyone else. Regardless of the size outcome, one thing is certain - the banks that are found to use the ECB's Discount Window should prepare for major stock pain, as the market, devoid of easy targets, focuses on them next as the European stigma trade becomes the hedge fund divergence trade du jour. After all there is a reason why the Fed's Discount Window expansion lasted for all of 3 months, and ended up hurting the participating banks (ahem Dexia) more than any other Fed concoction during the early stages of the Depression.
And the ECB announcement: