ECB’s Targeted Lending Spree Starts Out As Flop; Modern Monetary Insanity

Following on the “success” of the ECB’s LTRO (Long Term Refinance Operation) which did nothing to spur lending and everything to create the biggest sovereign bond bubble the world has ever seen,  ECB president Mario Draghi announced a TLTRO or Targeted LTRO on September 4.

The ECB’s intent is to spur lending.

Lending Spree Short of Expectations

Today the Financial Times reports ECB’s Lending Spree Short of Expectations.

The European Central Bank’s first offer of cheap four-year loans has fallen short of expectations, dealing a blow to president Mario Draghi’s hope of sustaining the eurozone’s ailing economy by expanding the central bank’s balance sheet.

Banks borrowed €82.6bn through the first of the ECB’s Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations, or TLTROs, one of policy makers’ big ideas to revive the currency area’s recovery. A poll by Bloomberg earlier this week showed economists, on average, expected banks to bid for €174bn of loans from a maximum of €400bn.

Analysts said the disappointing take-up would pile pressure on the ECB to embark on large-scale government bond buying, or quantitative easing, before the end of this year. With inflation as low as 0.4 per cent in the year to August, the central bank is struggling to hit its inflation target of just below 2 per cent.

The TLTROs allow banks to borrow at a rate just above the ECB’s main refinancing rate of 0.05 per cent until late 2018 so long as they meet targets for lending to businesses. If they miss the targets, they must pay the funds back in 2016.

The ECB will conduct another seven auctions, with the next TLTRO taking place in December. The central bank hopes the auctions, through which it will lend a maximum of €1tn over the next three years, will boost inflation and restart the region’s flagging economic recovery by spurring lending to smaller businesses.

Why TLTRO Won’t Spur Lending

Banks may eventually take the money. Why not? The only penalty is they have to pay it back in 2016 if they don’t lend it. But taking money, and lending (more than one would have anyway), are two different things. For now, banks did not even take a big bite at the money.

For an explanations as to why TLTRO will not spur lending, please see ECB Pulls Out Bazooka, Cuts Rates, Buys Assets; Will this Stimulate Lending?

Modern Monetary Insanity

Central banks ought to be worried about asset bubbles and asset deflation, not price deflation on ordinary consumer goods. Nonetheless, central banks target prices even though they cannot push price inflation where they want it!

Asset deflation (more precisely loans that cannot be paid back as asset prices fall)  not price deflation is what will cripple banks. Yet by targeting consumer prices with monetary inflation, they bring upon asset inflation then asset deflation which is precisely what they should seek to avoid.

From this perspective, the ECB is hell-bent on making the problem worse. It’s modern monetary insanity.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock