Euro zone business lending growth slows sharply: ECB

February 27, 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Corporate lending growth in the euro zone plunged last month, European Central Bank data showed on Wednesday, giving policymakers yet another reason to provide banks with a fresh liquidity facility.

Corporate lending expanded by 3.3 percent in January, well below December’s 3.9 percent reading and its post-crisis peak of 4.3 percent hit in September.

Credit growth to households meanwhile held steady at 3.2 percent, the ECB data showed.

The ECB last month warned that the growth outlook is deteriorating quickly, suggesting that the bloc’s biggest slowdown in half a decade may be longer and deeper than feared.

Fearing that banks may shut access to credit to firms and reinforce the downturn, the ECB is now preparing to give lenders more cheap, long-term funding.

It is also expected to delay its first post-crisis rate hike until next year, keeping borrowing costs record low for longer, to stimulate growth.

The annual growth rate of the M3 measure of money supply, which often foreshadows future activity, slowed to 3.8 percent from 4.1 percent in December, below market expectations for 4.0 percent.

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(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Francesco Canepa)

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