Portugal banks' ECB borrowing drops in January

LISBON Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:35am EST

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LISBON Feb 14 (Reuters) - Portuguese banks' borrowing from the European Central Bank fell nearly 6 percent last month to its lowest in almost a year after some banks repaid crisis loans early.

Banks from across Europe repaid a total 134 billion of the roughly 1 trillion euros of three-year loans made by the ECB about a year ago at the first opportunity last month, as liquidity conditions improved somewhat.

Two Portuguese banks have said they repaid some of the loans.

Bank of Portugal data showed on Thursday that cumulative borrowing by the country's banks from the euro zone's central bank fell to 49.7 billion euros ($66.8 billion) in January from 52.8 billion euros in December.

It was well below a record high of 60.5 billion reached in June last year, when banks were still unable to borrow elsewhere due to concerns over the country's debt crisis and relied almost entirely on ECB for liquidity.

Lisbon is working to repair its public finances and return to the debt market as it aims to exit a 78-billion-euro EU/IMF bailout programme arranged in 2011 by mid-2014.

The government hopes a recent easing in bond yields and its return to the debt market in late January for the first time since the rescue will make it easier for banks and companies to borrow, helping the economy out of its three-year recession. ($1 = 0.7442 euros) (Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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