March 15, 2020 / 8:15 AM / 20 days ago

CORRECTED-ECB ready to rein in bond spreads, beef up purchases: Panetta

(Corrects monthly amount of bond purchases in fifth paragraph)

FRANKFURT, March 15 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank stands ready to rein in “unjustified” spreads between euro zone bond yields and even beef up its purchases altogether to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, board member Fabio Panetta said in an interview published on Sunday.

It was the latest move in a concerted rearguard action by the ECB since President Christine Lagarde upset investors and fellow policymakers on Thursday by saying it wasn’t the bank’s job to help virus-stricken countries such as Italy on the debt market.

“The turbulence that struck the Italian sovereign bond market in the last few days is an undesired event that must be reabsorbed,” Panetta, himself an Italian, told Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera.

“Strong, unjustified increases in the spreads on the back of the health emergency...will be resolutely tackled.”

The ECB said it would buy an extra 120 billion euros ($133.26 billion) worth of bonds by the end of the year in response to the pandemic, on top of the 20 billion euros it buys every month to support inflation in the euro zone.

But Panetta said that the additional purchases could be increased again if necessary. ($1 = 0.9005 euros) (Reporting By Francesco Canepa Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Frances Kerry)

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