Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

ECB Bought 61.3 Billion Euros of Debt in March Ahead of QE Boost

  • Holdings under quantitative easing rose to 832.7 billion euros
  • Data covers period before stimulus package was expanded

The European Central Bank bought 61.3 billion euros ($69.9 billion) of debt in March, in the 13th month of a quantitative-easing program that’s being expanded in the second quarter to include corporate debt.

Holdings of public and private-sector debt climbed to 832.7 billion euros, data on the ECB’s website showed on Monday. The central bank announced on March 10 that it planned to buy an average of 80 billion euros a month of bonds, up from 60 billion, starting in April. The change comes as policy makers struggle to revive inflation in the 19-nation euro area, where price pressures haven’t touched their near-2 percent goal in three years.

Euro-area inflation was minus 0.1 percent in March, and ECB macroeconomic forecasts showed that central bank forecasters have pushed their hopes for reviving prices further out.

The new package included a 10 basis-point cut in its deposit rate to minus 0.4 percent, a surprise drop in the benchmark to zero, and four more multi-year lending operations. As part of the QE expansion, the ECB said that it will begin buying investment-grade corporate debt starting at the end of the second quarter.

Looking to assets already being purchased, holdings of sovereign and agency debt climbed by 53.1 billion euros last month, the ECB data showed. Holdings of covered bonds rose by 7.8 billion euros. The central bank’s asset backed security holdings advanced by 421 million euros.

The ECB next meets on April 20-21 in Frankfurt.

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