Saturday, January 28, 2012

Contraction in Eurozone's repo markets is driving M3 decline

Yesterday the ECB released its monetary aggregates measures for the Eurozone through Dec-2011. The following chart shows the absolute level of Eurozone's M3 aggregate, a broad measure of money stock. (Note that at times it is helpful to look at monetary indicators on an absolute basis rather than as percent changes as economists tend to do.)  The upward trend in the money supply growth has reversed, mostly during the last quarter of 2011.

Eurozone M3 in EUR billion (seasonally adjusted)
An obvious question here is whether this broad money supply decline is similar to the US during 2008-2010. One key component of M3 driving this contraction in money stock is the amount of repo (secured) lending. The Eurozone repo loan balances have declined materially in Q4 - an issue that is quite different from what had occurred in the US.

Repurchase agreements (repo) component of  Eurozone's M3 in EUR billion (seasonally adjusted)   
Since repo has become the only form of interbank lending in the Eurozone, this is clearly an indication of deteriorating credit conditions. With the ECB providing longer term financing not available in the interbank repo markets, it is often quite attractive or even necessary for many financial institutions to shift their collateral into an ECB facility (ECB secured loans are not included in the monetary aggregates). LTRO term lending for example provides far more funding stability than rolling short-term interbank repo loans. The ECB has also been considerably more lenient with collateral than the current repo markets. The rapid rise in the ECB's balance sheet (EUR 2.7 trillion) "soaked up" a great deal of the collateral out of the repo markets, dampening growth in interbank credit.

ECB consolidated balance sheet (EUR million)

The pie chart below shows the contribution by country to the drop in the Eurozone repo levels over Q4-2011. Nearly half is coming from Italy as Italian institutions shifted financing to the ECB. It is not surprising therefore that Italy continues to deal with tightening credit conditions that are more extreme than the Eurozone as a whole.

Contribution by country to the Q4 drop in repo component of M3

The unprecedented accommodation provided by the ECB is not yet helping to expand the broad money supply. The banking system has shifted a substantial portion of its eligible collateral from the repo markets to the ECB who is providing longer term stable funding. Only once the dependence on the ECB is reduced and the interbank funding markets begin to heal, will we see a stabilization in M3 growth.

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