Trichet Says Markets Returning to Normal

Despite the ECB chief's calming words, pressure builds for the central bank not to raise interest rates as he has hinted it will

European Central Bank (ECB) chief Jean-Claude Trichet has said the markets are "progressively" returning to normal following days of turbulence prompted by the US crisis over high risk mortgages.

The ECB made a total of four cash interventions since last Thursday after investors panicked when it became clear that European banks were vulnerable to the US turmoil.

France's largest bank BNP Paribas froze payments on three funds invested in the sector, which involves lending money to those with a poor credit history.

The total pumped into the European banking system to help keep lending activity from freezing up came to around €200 billion -- on Tuesday (14 August) the bank gave another fresh cash injection of €7.7 billion.

The ECB "will continue to monitor the situation while euro-area financial markets in general are going back to normal functioning,'' Mr Trichet said in a statement on Tuesday.

But despite his soothing words the markets continued to be spooked. More turmoil in the global money markets on Tuesday sent stock prices around the world falling.

Already analysts are looking to what the events may mean for the bank's next move on interest rates with a rate raised scheduled for next month.

Before the current credit crisis, Mr Trichet had signalled a rate rise on 6 September by referring to "strong vigilance" -- seen as code for a hike.

However, the ECB is set to come under strong pressure in some quarters not to raise the rates, particularly after the release yesterday of surprisingly weak growth figures for the 13-nation eurozone.

The figures showed the region expanded by just 0.3 percent with Germany, France and Italy all recording poor growth.

The figures may also exacerbate tensions between Mr Trichet and France's Nicolas Sarkozy with the French president already continuously criticising the bank for not doing enough for growth.

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