Greek banks made more use of so-called emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) in March, increasing their borrowing by 4.4 percent from the previous month as an outflow of deposits continued, Bank of Greece data showed.
Banks switched to using ELA, provided by the Greek central bank, in February after being cut off from the ECB’s funding window after the new government stalled the country’s bailout programme – a condition for access to direct ECB funding.
Emergency funding from the Greek central bank, which is more costly than borrowing from the European Central Bank, rose to 68.51 billion euros ($72.6 billion) last month from 65.64 billion in February, the data showed.
Banks suffered deposit outflows of 24 billion euros over December to February as jitters over the government’s standoff with euro zone partners on required reforms prompted savers to withdraw cash to stash at home or to send abroad.
Deposit outflow data for March is expected later this month.
The ECB, which has the ability to expand and restrict ELA operations, has raised the ELA borrowing cap in increments, keeping pressure on Athens to strike an agreement with its creditors over its debt woes.
On Tuesday the ECB raised the ceiling by 800 million euros to 74 billion euros.
ECB lending to Greek banks against collateral was steady in March at 38.67 billion euros. The ECB stopped accepting Greek government paper as collateral for funding on Feb. 4.
Lenders can still use their European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bonds as collateral with the ECB, which explains their 38.67 billion euro borrowing balance.
In total, banks’ funding from the ECB and the domestic central bank reached 107.2 billion euros in March – a sum equivalent to about 58 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
The extent to which additional emergency funding will be provided “is entirely in the hands of the Greek government”, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Wednesday.
Draghi told a news conference after the ECB’s regular policy meeting there was no end date for ELA to Greek banks, adding: “It’s entirely depending on the conditions that will be in place” after negotiations between Greece and euro zone peers.
“We approved ELA and we’ll continue to do so, extend the liquidity to the Greek banks while they are solvent and they have adequate collateral,” Draghi said.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Susan Fenton)