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German Central Bank Faces Bailout Risk after Controversial Money Printing Spree

German Central Bank Faces Bailout Risk after Controversial Money Printing Spree

Introduction:

The German central bank, Bundesbank, is facing the possibility of a bailout due to significant losses incurred from its participation in the European Central Bank’s (ECB) extensive bond-buying program. The Bundesrechnungshof, Germany’s federal auditor, has raised concerns about the substantial losses, amounting to over €650 billion, on the bond purchases. This critical report on the ECB’s public sector purchase program (PSPP) has cast doubts on the feasibility of future bond-buying initiatives aimed at stabilizing the eurozone. Additionally, economists have criticized these bond-buying programs for exacerbating inflation and increasing the risk of overheating economies.

Bundesbank’s Struggles and Potential Bailout:

The ECB’s decision to increase interest rates has adversely affected the Bundesbank’s bond holdings, resulting in a €1 billion loss in just one year. The central bank now pays more in interest to commercial banks on deposits than it earns from its stockpile of bonds. In response to this financial strain, the ECB initiated a reduction in the size of its balance sheet earlier this year. The losses incurred by the Bundesbank resemble the situation in the United Kingdom, where the Bank of England estimated annual transfers between the Treasury and the Bank to reach approximately £30 billion over the next three years. Unlike Germany, the losses incurred by the Bank of England are automatically covered by taxpayers due to a deal struck during the financial crisis.

Joachim Nagel, President of the Bundesbank, had previously warned about the increasing burden on the bank’s profit and loss account in the coming years. The Bundesbank’s provisions, amounting to €19.2 billion, are expected to be depleted in the future, leaving the bank vulnerable. While the Bundesbank currently has an emergency fund of €2.5 billion that can be utilized if needed, Mr. Nagel cautioned that the burdens would likely exceed their financial buffers in subsequent years. However, he expressed confidence in the Bundesbank’s balance sheet and mentioned that losses could be carried forward and covered by future profits, as was done in the 1970s.

Diverging Views on Risks and Budget Impact:

The German finance ministry has expressed a differing assessment from the federal auditor regarding the risks posed to the budget by the Bundesbank’s actions. It claimed that it was highly unlikely for the losses from the central bank’s monetary policy operations to strain the federal budget. While the ministry remains confident, concerns surrounding the potential need for a bailout persist.

German Economy Faces Recession Threat:

In addition to the challenges faced by the central bank, Germany’s economy is grappling with its own set of problems. A recent survey indicated that the country risks remaining in a recession throughout the year. The Ifo business climate index, a key indicator of business activity, experienced a significant decline in June, falling to 88.5 from May’s reading of 91.5. The slump was primarily driven by a substantial deterioration in the manufacturing sector, and it marks the lowest reading since November 2022. Rising energy costs have contributed to this decline, affecting all sectors of the German economy.

Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING, commented on the situation, stating that the expected economic rebound in Germany may have been nothing more than a hopeful projection. The fading optimism and a myriad of short and long-term challenges suggest that growth will remain subdued at best, although Brzeski does not predict a prolonged recession for the next few years.

Conclusion:

The German central bank’s participation in the ECB’s bond-buying program has exposed it to substantial losses, potentially necessitating a bailout. The ongoing debate between the federal auditor and the finance ministry regarding the budgetary impact adds further

uncertainty to the situation. Moreover, the worrying decline in Germany’s business activity, particularly in manufacturing, poses additional challenges to the country’s economy. These developments call for careful monitoring of the central bank’s financial stability and the overall economic performance of Germany in the coming months.

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