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ECB lending plan helping Europe so far

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Steve Chiotakis: To Europe now, where things seem to be looking up. In Italy, the government was easily able to borrow $4 billion to pay for spending over the next three years. And the head of the European Central Bank says it is evidence that the new European bailout is paying off.

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is with us live from London with the latest on that story. Stephen, why the newfound optimism?

Stephen Beard: Italy and Spain borrowed $32 billion between them over the past two days, and they had no trouble at all. Investors shoveled their cash in, and as a result, their borrowing costs fell sharply.

Chiotakis: Now, why though, Stephen, is the European Central Bank claiming credit for that?

Beard: Because the Central Bank has made available hundreds of billions in cheap loans to the eurozone commercial banks, and they’re starting to lend that money to eurozone governments — making it easier and cheaper for them to borrow; making it less likely they’ll default.

Chiotakis: So is this it? Crisis over?

Beard: Not quite, no. The European Central Bank is certainly working more effectively. But some analysts say the governments in the eurozone still haven’t done enough to get their finances under control.

Steve Barrow of Standard Bank says that’ll become more difficult if the eurozone as a whole lurches into recession this year as seems likely.

Steve Barrow: That’s not the right sort of backdrop that you need to be able to get the budget deficit reductions the governments are promising.

And there’s a lot more borrowing to do — the eurozone as a whole needs to borrow almost $1 trillion before the end of this year.

Chiotakis: Wow. All right, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London. Stephen, thank you so much.

Beard: OK Steve.

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