Lender of last resort

European Central Bank offers a historic $639 billion to 500 European banks.

If you've ever been really strapped and had to borrow money from friends or relatives, you know what it's like to be a distressed European bank today. If you actually take the money, they know how desperate you really are. If you don't take the money, well, you're still stuck not being able to pay the rent.

Today, the European Central Bank offered a historic $639 billion to 500 European banks.

Richard DeKazer is the deputy chief economist at the Parthenon Group. He says looking at the ECB's move, you could say, "Wow, these banks really are desperate. They need the cash, and they have to go to the lender of last resort, and that's very distressing." Yikes, you really needed the money after all, didn't you?

Or, alternatively, DeKazer says, "You could look at this borrowing and see banks thatwill do what it takes to avoid turning this financial crisis into a credit crisis. They will get money to the people who need it." Here, have a little something to get you through these hard times.

The markets seemed disappointed with the ECB news at first. Throw in a disappointing earnings report from Oracle and a big revision in the number of existing home sales since 2007, DeKazer says, and today was a slog.

Oh, and one last thing. It's the Wednesday before Christmas, and yesterday was a huge day for the markets. There was likely a lot of people wanting to lock in their profits and selling today to do just that.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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