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Central bank liquidity lines

Liquidity lines between central banks are well-established instruments in the central banking policy toolkit, aimed at alleviating tensions in international funding markets. They are framework agreements enabling a central bank to receive currency issued by another central bank in exchange for some form of collateral based on predefined terms. They can be implemented through two basic types of financial instruments: swap agreements and repurchase agreements.

Swap and repo lines have been increasingly used by the ECB and other major central banks since the global financial crisis. The ECB is part of a swap line network of standing bilateral arrangements with five other major central banks (the Bank of Canada, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve System). In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the ECB swiftly reactivated existing swap lines with various central banks and set up new ones. In addition, the ECB set up new bilateral repo lines with several non-euro area central banks.

Currency swap agreements

Currency swap agreements between two central banks are contractual agreements in which the borrowing central bank obtains foreign currency in exchange for its own currency provided as collateral, with the promise to reverse the transaction and repay the borrowed currency plus a contractually agreed interest rate at a specified future date.

Figure 1

Swap lines

ECB provides euro against foreign currencies accepted as collateral. Under reciprocal swap lines, the ECB may also receive foreign currency providing euro as collateral.

Source: ECB.

Notes: Illustration of the agreements in place as at March 2021. For the current list of agreements under the ECB’s main framework see the table further below.

Many of the ECB’s swap agreements are reciprocal. This means that the ECB may both provide euro to a central bank while receiving foreign currency as collateral and receive foreign currency from the issuing central bank while providing euro as collateral, whichever is necessary under given circumstances. However, some ECB swap agreements only envisage the provision of euro by the ECB to another central bank in exchange for foreign currency issued by the requesting central bank pledged as collateral with the ECB.

Repurchase agreements

Repurchase agreements are contractual agreements in which the borrowing central bank obtains foreign currency, for a specified period and at a contractually agreed interest rate, in exchange for financial assets denominated in that same currency provided as collateral to the lending central bank. Under all ECB repo agreements, the ECB provides euro to a non-euro area central bank and receives euro-denominated financial assets as collateral.

Figure 2

Repo lines

ECB provides euro against adequate euro-denominated collateral accepted by the ECB.

Source: ECB.

Notes: Illustration of the agreements in place as at March 2021. For the current list of agreements under the ECB’s main framework see the table further below.

What is the purpose of swap and repo lines?

The Eurosystem’s swap and repo lines are used as monetary policy instruments and as stabilising tools in times of stress on the global financial markets.

When the ECB provides euro to non-euro area central banks, the liquidity lines address possible euro liquidity needs in non-euro area countries in the event of market dysfunctions. They thereby prevent spillback effects on euro area financial markets and economies that might adversely impact the smooth transmission of ECB monetary policy. The lines also prevent euro liquidity shortages from morphing into financial stability risks.

When the ECB receives foreign currency from another central bank (e.g. US dollars from the Federal Reserve System) and provides euro as collateral, the liquidity lines ensure the continuous provision of loans in foreign currency, preventing abrupt deleveraging, extreme price movements and interruptions in the flow of credit resulting from tensions in international funding markets.

ECB main framework and Eurosystem repo facility for central banks (EUREP)

The ECB has a main framework within which it uses strict criteria to assess the conditions under which to grant swap and repo lines to non-euro area central banks. This main framework comprises the bilateral swap and repo lines referred to above. The Governing Council assesses incoming requests for liquidity lines on a case-by-case basis. Some ECB swap agreements are standing agreements with no end date, although the parties may terminate them. Other arrangements have a predefined end date, but can be prolonged by mutual agreement.

Complementing its main framework, in June 2020 the ECB established the Eurosystem repo facility for central banks (EUREP). EUREP aims to broaden access to the Eurosystem’s liquidity arrangements to a large range of central banks around the world, beyond the swap and repo lines established under the ECB main framework.

The euro-providing swap and repo lines are backstop facilities and have been deployed to address possible euro liquidity needs in the event of market dysfunctions outside the euro area, which could adversely impact the smooth transmission of the ECB’s monetary policy. EUREP has been designed as a temporary and precautionary facility in the context of the coronavirus shock and will be available until March 2022.

List of central bank liquidity lines the Eurosystem maintains under its main framework for swap and repo lines (as at March 2021)*
Non-euro area counterpart Type of arrangement Maximum borrowable amount (in EUR million) Expiry date Reciprocal
Българска народна банка (Bulgarian National Bank) Swap line 2,000 31 March 2022 No
Danmarks Nationalbank Swap line 24,000 Standing No
Hrvatska Narodna Banka Swap line 2,000 31 March 2022 No
Sveriges Riksbank Swap line 10,000 Standing No
Bank of Canada Swap line Unlimited Standing Yes
People’s Bank of China** Swap line 45,000 08 October 2022 Yes
Bank of Japan Swap line Unlimited Standing Yes
Swiss National Bank Swap line Unlimited Standing Yes
Bank of England Swap line Unlimited Standing Yes
Federal Reserve System Swap line Unlimited Standing Yes
Magyar Nemzeti Bank Repo line 4,000 31 March 2022 No
Banca Naţională a României Repo line 4,500 31 March 2022 No
Bank of Albania Repo line 400 31 March 2022 No
National Bank of North Macedonia Repo line 400 31 March 2022 No
Central Bank of the Republic of San Marino Repo line 100 31 March 2022 No
National Bank of Serbia Repo line 1,000 31 March 2022 No
* The table does not include repo lines established with non-euro area central banks under EUREP, for which the ECB does not disclose its counterparties.
** Maximum borrowable amount is set to CNY 350 billion when CNY is provided to the ECB.

Data

The dataset below is published weekly. It provides data on the aggregate daily amount of liquidity provided across all central bank liquidity lines established under the main framework and EUREP, denominated in euro, as from January 2020.

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