It seems that the ECB is considering moving towards the type of back-to-back loan solution that we advocated in a previous post to stop the speculative bet on the collapse of the Euro. Bloomberg has just announced that the ECB is in talks with the IMF to set up a special $270 billion lending facility that would bypass the legal constraint of acting as lender of last resort to Euro Zone governments.
Although the details are not yet known, this is a positive development. Its main advantage is that it leaves the onus of imposing the necessary conditionality terms to the IMF, a task outside the remit of the ECB. However, the IMF failure in the Greek adjustment program raises serious doubts on its ability to deal with the Euro zone crisis.
We would prefer a European solution, intermediated and co-financed by private banks backed by the reformed European Financial Stability Facility, once it gets competence in adjustment lending.
Still, to be credible the ECB needs to go further. First, it needs to make sure that the size of the facility is big enough to leave no doubt about its power (the $270 billion reported are a fraction of what is needed). Second, it needs to ensure that the IMF can speed up its decision-making process. Finally, and most importantly, needs to stop its programs of bond buying in the secondary market that are feeding the speculation. A substantial reduction in the bond supply issued by some sovereigns is indispensable to squeeze those shorting the Euro.
In conclusion, the ECB has finally taken the first step in the right direction. Let us hope that it is followed by additional measures and is not offset by the fiscal fundamentalism that the surplus countries are trying to impose in whole Euro zone.