PRESS RELEASE

Financial structures in the euro area

25 October 2002

The European Central Bank (ECB) is today releasing a report on financial structures in the euro area. The report describes the financial structure of the euro area as a whole and of the individual euro area countries, recent developments in and the integration of these structures and their determinants. The aim has been to produce a reference work for policy-makers, researchers and the general public, building on the statistical framework that has been developed for monetary policy purposes over recent years.

The report highlights the following features of the euro area's financial structure:

  • In the euro area, the main financing flows are from households to non-financial corporations and governments. Flows of finance into and out of the euro area have been relatively balanced over recent years.
  • Financial intermediaries play a major role in collecting and allocating funds in the euro area.
  • Among the financial intermediaries, monetary financial institutions (MFIs) are the major collectors of funds. However, non-financial sectors have also allocated significant amounts to investment funds, pension funds and insurance corporations as well as to the capital markets over recent years.
  • Euro area economies are generally dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises. Partly owing to this characteristic, non-quoted shares, other forms of private equity and bank loans are extensively used as means of financing. At the same time, debt securities financing, which has historically played a minor role for euro area corporations, has become more important – especially relative to shares – since the start of Stage Three of Economic and Monetary Union.
  • The bond market has undergone a series of structural changes over the past few years. These changes involved an increase in market liquidity, different behaviour by sovereign issuers, an expansion of the corporate bond market and more closely integrated pan-European trading possibilities. The stock market also underwent significant changes with the development of pan-European indices and an increase in the number of listed firms.

This report can be downloaded from the "Publications" section of the ECB's website (http://www.ecb.europa.eu). Hard copies are also available free of charge and can be ordered from the ECB's Press and Information Division (Fax: +49 69 1344 7404).

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