Eurozone firms and households borrow more in November

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – Growth in lending to eurozone firms and households picked up in November, the penultimate month of a key element in the European Central Bank’s economic stimulus, official data showed yesterday.

The pace of year-on-year growth in household borrowing accelerated to 3.3 per cent while the rate for firms reached 4.0 per cent, ECB data showed – both 0.1 percentage points higher than in October.

Folding in loan growth data from non-bank financial firms like insurers and pension funds showed that the overall pace of credit increase in the private sector – adjusted for some purely financial transactions – held steady at 3.3 per cent in November.

The pace of growth in lending is closely watched by central bankers and economists for signs of how effective ECB stimulus to the eurozone has proved.

Governors at the Frankfurt institution agreed in December to end mass purchases of government and corporate bonds, which amounted to 2.6 trillion euros (USD3.0 trillion) since 2015.

The “quantitative easing” (QE) scheme was intended to pump cash through the financial system and into lending to firms and households, powering economic growth and boosting inflation towards the ECB target of just below 2.0 per cent.

But although the threat of deflation – a damaging downward spiral of prices and economic activity – has been dispelled, the central bank’s most recent forecasts see it achieving its price growth target only in 2021.

To continue coaxing inflation along, the ECB plans to reinvest the proceeds from its massive stock of bonds and keep interest rates at historic lows “at least through the summer” this year.

Continued sluggish price growth could see them remain there well past the end of President Mario Draghi’s tenure at the institution in October.