ECB loans show big needs in peripheral states: analysts

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Results of the last European Central Bank loans of the year confirmed Thursday that commercial banks on the eurozone's rim have a great need for central bank funds going into 2011.

The last of the ECB's 2010 refinancing operations saw 32 banks borrow 20.6 billion euros (26.9 billion dollars) for 13 days to get through a period when shoppers need cash and banks dress up their books before closing them out for the year.

A total of three "refi" operations, including one for one week and another for three months, resulted in loans that were 25 billion euros less than the total sum that had matured, reducing the eurozone money supply by that amount.

Analysts had different takes on the importance of the change, but pointed to increased demand by banks on the eurozone's periphery, in Greece, Ireland and Portugal for example, and less interest from core countries.

Meanwhile, "the reduction in the number of bidders also sends a constructive message about the soundness of the European banking sector as a whole," analysts at the Italian bank UniCredit said.

Roughly 100 fewer banks bid in all, the ECB data showed.

At the Royal Bank of Scotland, economist Nick Matthews said that overall, the "outcome is not surprising and implies periphery reliance on the ECB remains disproportionally high.

"In November the periphery accounted for just under two-thirds of the Eurosystem total open market operations, which itself excluded any exceptional liquidity assistance - possibly up to 45 billion euros - being provided by the Central Bank of Ireland," he added.

That is far more than the countries comparable weight within the eurozone economy.

© 2010 AFP

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