ECONOMY

Banks tapping more ECB funds

Funding from the European Central Bank to Greek lenders rose 2.9 percent at the end of November from the previous month, ending a three-month decline, data showed yesterday. Lending to euro area credit institutions related to monetary policy operations, which reflects ECB lending to Greek banks, stood at 95.05 billion euros compared to 92.4 billion at the end of October, the Bank of Greece said in a statement yesterday. Greek banks lost wholesale market access in the wake of the country’s debt crisis, becoming increasingly reliant on the ECB. European Central Bank funding stood at 49.7 billion euros at the beginning of the year. Some Greek lenders have recently begun to open up credit lines with foreign banks. «Although they’ve been somewhat tapping the wholesale markets a little in the fourth quarter, the banks were hesitant that their deposits would keep going up,» Tania Gold, an analyst at Unicredit Bank AG in London, told Bloomberg. «As the recession deepens, people are using their savings to live off, and that pushes deposits down.» Greek banks have been hurt by concerns their holdings of Greek government bonds are too high, locking them out of markets and leaving them reliant on ECB funding. In the first 11 months of the year, Greek banks lost 27.5 billion euros in deposits, equivalent to 11.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to Bank of Greece Governor Giorgos Provopoulos. The increase in the degree to which Greek banks depended on the ECB in November isn’t big enough to be a cause for alarm, Gold said. «Funding in this environment is difficult for any bank, so you kind of expect the ECB reliance to continue,» she said. Banks in Spain and Portugal were less reliant on the ECB last month, according to data released by those countries’ central banks. In Spain, funding decreased to 61.1 billion euros from 67.9 billion and in Portugal it fell to 37.9 billion euros from 40 billion. In Ireland, where the government last month applied for an 85-billion-euro bailout, lenders’ ECB funding requirement increased to 136.4 billion euros from 130 billion.