European policy makers unveiled an unprecedented loan package worth nearly $1 trillion and a program of securities purchases as they spearheaded a drive to stop a sovereign-debt crisis that threatened to shatter confidence in the euro. Jolted into action by last week’s slide in the currency to a 14-month low and soaring bond yields in Portugal and Spain, governments of the 16 euro nations agreed to make loans of as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) available to countries under attack from speculators.
The ECB will also embark on “very significant operations,” European Union Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters in Brussels after the 14-hour meeting. “The ECB has taken a decision to intervene in the secondary markets of government securities.”
Under pressure from the U.S. and Asia to stabilize markets, the European governments gambled that the show of financial force would prevent a sovereign-debt crisis and muffle speculation that the 11-year-old euro might break apart.
Europe’s failure to contain Greece’s fiscal crisis triggered a 4.1 percent drop in the euro last week, the biggest weekly decline since the aftermath of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse. It prompted President Barack Obama to call German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozyyesterday to urge “resolute steps” in Europe to prevent the crisis from cascading around the world.
Under the loan package, euro-area governments pledged to make 440 billion euros available, with 60 billion euros more from the EU’s budget and as much as 250 billion euros from the International Monetary Fund, said Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado.
“We are placing considerable sums in the interests of stability in Europe,” Salgado told reporters after chairing the meeting.