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ECB | TLTRO III and bank lending conditions

1 Introduction

Targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs) play a key role in preserving favourable bank financing conditions for households and firms, thereby contributing to inflation reaching the ECB’s target of 2% in the medium term. The operations are part of a broad set of complementary policy instruments, which include asset purchases, negative interest rates and forward guidance.[1] Since their inception in 2014, TLTROs have supported the transmission of monetary policy by incentivising lending through their targeting feature and by providing a reduction in bank funding cost, which has been instrumental in avoiding a deterioration in lending conditions that would have otherwise occurred. The third series of the TLTROs (TLTRO III) was introduced in early 2019. The initial announcement of TLTRO III in March 2019 reassured markets about the extension of the pre-existing TLTRO II. The operations were intended to stave off “congestion effects” in bank funding markets that would have otherwise materialised because of the need to replace expiring TLTRO II funds. The operations were recalibrated in September 2019 to preserve favourable bank lending conditions, ensure the smooth functioning of the monetary policy transmission mechanism and therefore further support the accommodative stance of monetary policy. From the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the recalibration of this tool was, thanks to its design and the role of the euro area banking system in the monetary policy transmission mechanism, an integral part of the ECB’s policy response to ensure favourable borrowing conditions for firms and households during the pandemic.

TLTRO III provided ample liquidity at attractive rates to address the emergency liquidity needs of households and firms induced by the pandemic. The ECB’s monetary policy response to the COVID-19 crisis involved two main tools. First, asset purchases supported favourable financing conditions for the real economy in times of heightened uncertainty, both through an additional envelope under the regular asset purchase programme (APP) and via the launch of the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP). Second, the recalibration of the existing TLTRO III operations helped banks secure funding at favourable terms to support access to credit for firms and households.[2] The Governing Council’s decisions of 12 March[3] and 30 April[4] 2020 have secured the transmission of monetary policy via banks at times of elevated uncertainty and high liquidity needs by expanding banks’ borrowing allowance under TLTRO III from 30% to 50% of the eligible loan book (providing an additional leeway of approximately €1.2 trillion) and reducing the interest rate applied on these operations to a rate as low as -1% until June 2021 for banks fulfilling the lending requirements. These decisions also enlarged the set of assets eligible to collateralise the borrowing under TLTRO III and enhanced banks’ flexibility of repayment options and participation modalities across operations. The Governing Council’s decisions of 10 December 2020[5] further widened the borrowing allowance to 55% and prolonged the period in which banks could secure a rate as low as -1% to June 2022, subject to additional lending requirements until the end of 2021. This served to shelter borrowing conditions from the ripple effects of the pandemic.

The magnitude of the pandemic shock, the broad-based policy response and the attractive design of TLTROs (after the various recalibrations) resulted in one of the largest liquidity injections by the ECB directly into the euro area banking sector, bringing the total uptake to €2.2 trillion as of June 2021, thereby providing substantial support to the euro area throughout the entire pandemic period. The monetary policy response to buffer the impact of the pandemic on borrowing was complemented by policy support from other policy domains, ranging from microprudential and macroprudential policy via capital relief measures, to fiscal policy via extensive use of government guarantees and moratoria. The favourability of TLTRO conditions, together with the broadened eligibility of assets that could be pledged as collateral (see Box 1), the capital space and loan demand reinforced by other policies, enabled euro area banks to participate widely in the TLTRO III programme, leading to the largest participation in Eurosystem refinancing operations so far. The overall take-up exceeded €1.5 trillion after the June 2020 operation and subsequent operations brought it up to €2.2 trillion as of June 2021 (Chart 1). This article studies how, and by how much, this targeted longer-term central bank funding has affected bank lending conditions.

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Compliments of the European Central Bank.