January 3, 2019 / 4:34 PM / 5 months ago

End of ECB buys leaves Italy, France, Spain with 64 billion euro hangover

FILE PHOTO: The European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters are pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The end of the European Central Bank’s massive stimulus program has left Italy, France and Spain seeking new buyers for up to 64 billion euro ($73 billion) of bonds, ECB data suggests.

That’s how much the ECB has “overbought” those countries’ debt by, according to Reuters calculations on Thursday based on the bank’s end-December stock of euro zone government bonds.

The ECB said last month it would bring those bond holdings “into closer alignment” with each country’s share in the central bank’s capital in coming years.

To achieve its goal, the ECB will have to reinvest proceeds from some of its maturing Italian, Spanish and French holdings into the government bonds of countries that were “underbought”.

Including Greece, whose bonds were not part of the stimulus scheme due to their low credit rating, that ‘realignment’ figure would rise as high as 89 billion euros.

Once Greece and countries where the stock of debt is too small are taken out, Germany and Portugal appear likely beneficiaries.

The original deviations were due to scarcity of bonds to buy in small countries, such as the Baltics, and to other self-imposed constraints of the ECB’s stimulus program.

The 2.6 trillion euro asset purchase scheme ended last month but the ECB has pledged to reinvest its proceeds for a long time.

Reporting By Francesco Canepa; editing by John Stonestreet

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