May 7, 2018 / 3:10 PM / 2 months ago

ECB to make up German bond buys after record-low outlay

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank will make up over the coming months for its undersized purchases of German government bonds in April, it said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

The ECB’s buying of German sovereign debt dwindled to a record low last month, in a fresh sign of the ECB’s struggle to find enough top-rated paper in the final stretch of its stimulus programme.

While Germany remains the largest country in the ECB’s programme, purchases of just 4.7 billion euros (4.1 billion pounds) in April were some 15 percent below the country’s assigned quota, according to Reuters calculations, and the lowest level since the scheme started in 2015.

But the ECB is set to make up for this with oversized German purchases in the coming months, a spokesman said.

“(Monthly purchases) may deviate from capital key shares for a number of reasons, including, for example, the possibility to distribute large reinvestments over a period of up to three months,” the spokesman said in a written statement.

“Following the use of this flexibility in April, which resulted in a downside deviation from the capital key, upside deviations can be expected in the subsequent month(s).”

In April, purchases in Spain, Italy and France plugged the gap, extending a trend that started more than a year ago as the ECB struggled to find enough new German bonds to roll over its huge stock.

The central bank is also nearing a limit on owning more than a third of the country’s public debt.

The ECB is widely expected to end its 2.55 trillion euro bond-buying programme in December, although recent, weaker-than-expected economic data may test its resolve.

Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Gareth Jones and Toby Chopra

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