The Mario Draghi-led ECB is already buying junk bonds so why not add Greek sovereign bonds to the list too?
That's the latest bit of central planning hocus pocus from the ECB. Yesterday, the central bank granted Greek banks access to cheap funding, after sidelining them for more than a year due to debt negotiations.
Draghi & Co. would also "examine" the purchase of Greek government bonds, which still carry a junk rating, "at a later stage":
"The Governing Council will examine possible purchases of Greek government bonds under the public sector purchase programme (PSPP) at a later stage, taking into account the progress made in the analysis and reinforcement of Greece’s debt sustainability, as well as other risk management considerations."
The ECB is already purchasing corporate junk bonds. Here's Bloomberg reporting from earlier this month when the ECB first began buying corporate bonds:
"Purchases on the first day included notes from Telecom Italia SpA, according to people familiar with the matter, who aren’t authorized to speak about it and asked not to be identified. Italy’s biggest phone company has speculative-grade ratings at both Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. The company’s bonds only qualify for the central bank’s purchase program because Fitch Ratings ranks it at investment grade."
And even if a bond is universally downgraded to junk by all ratings agencies the ECB can hang on. Here's more from an ECB press release:
"Will the Eurosystem sell its holdings of bonds if they lose eligibility? For example, if they are downgraded and lose investment grade status?
The Eurosystem is not required to sell its holdings in the event of a downgrade below the credit quality rating requirement for eligibility."