The Exchange

For Europe, Unlimited Bond Buys Aren’t a Long-Term Fix

The Exchange

The euro was getting a lift Wednesday after a published report said the European Central Bank was about to lay out plans for an unlimited government bond-buying program.

Bloomberg reported that ECB President Mario Draghi will discuss the plan Thursday and whether it will proceed. The ECB wouldn't establish a limit on yields, the report said, but any bond buying clearly would be meant to provide stabilization for interest rates in Europe's weaker economies, such as Spain and Italy, which have seen yields surge and borrowing made difficult.

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Mario Draghi (AP/Photo)

What could be key is whether Germany, Europe's strongest economy, gets on board with the plan. The Bloomberg report said the Bundesbank was the "sole objector," though it indicated that German concerns appeared to be on the mild side.

The expectation of the ECB program, according to the report, would be to have a neutral overall effect on Europe's money supply by ensuring that the central bank pulls out of the economy an amount equal to what it spends.

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve did something similar through Operation Twist. That intervention in the American bond market, involving the selling of short-term debt and the buying of the same amount of long-term debt, got underway last year and was extended only recently.

Back in July, Draghi suggested the ECB would get in the bond market in a significant way when he said the euro would be kept together. Policy makers, he indicated then, would do basically whatever was necessary to ensure the common currency's survival. The euro was recently at $1.2607, up more than 0.3%.

Early takeaway here: If the proposal laid out above is implemented, it should provide the market with confidence that Europe will be steady for the near- to mid-term. The downside is it's temporary -- at least parts of Europe's economies have been a major concern for global investors for some three years, and that won't be permanently altered by this particular approach.

For Europe, the smaller, less financially secure nations like Greece are still going to be less financially secure. That's a longer-term problem for Europe to solve. Ultimately, each nation and the ECB are going to have to decide whether the euro zone countries can learn to stand on their own or if government support in perpetuity is the only way to stay afloat. And that's TBD.

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