Demand for cheap ECB credit unexpectedly strong in fresh tender

FRANKFURT, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank allotted 45.27 billion euros ($50.83 billion) in its second offering of four-year super-cheap loans on Thursday, at the upper end of expectations, a welcome sign that bank lending is finally picking up.

Introduced in March as a potent tool to aid the bloc’s modest credit recovery, the targeted long-term financing operations (TLTRO II) aim to lower corporate borrowing costs to induce spending and ultimately revive inflation.

But demand in the initial tender in June was lukewarm, suggesting that funding is a relatively low concern for banks, because they are more worried about finding customers with viable investment plans and healthy market prospects.

Banks took up 45.27 billion euros on Thursday, more than twice as much as expected in a Reuters poll.

The actual figure may be somewhat lower, however. Banks repaid 9.4 billion euros of a previous, more expensive facility and if all of these were rolled over on Thursday, the net figure would be around 36 billion euros, still well above forecasts.

Offered initially at a zero percent interest rate, banks could be paid up to 0.4 percent of what they borrow by the ECB if they meet targets for lending out cash to the real economy.

The take-up in the initial tender in June was 399 billion euros from 514 banks most of that was banks rolling over a previous facility and the net figure was just 31 billion euros, well below expectations.

Struggling with ultra-low inflation, the ECB will offer the new loans every three months. It has also cut its deposit rate deep into negative territory and is buying 80 billion euros of assets per month with the aim of getting consumer price growth back to its target of close to 2 percent. ($1 = 0.8906 euros) (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)