ECB backs Polish currency with 10 billion euro funding
The European Central Bank has established or extended financing agreements with Poland and four other countries to support their efforts to defend their currencies against fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The ECB said it had set up a €10 billion precautionary swap line with the Polish central bank to provide it with euros in exchange for Polish zloty until January 2023 – the first time it had been doing since the global financial crisis of 2008.
It also extended repurchase agreements to provide euro funding to the central banks of Hungary, Albania, North Macedonia and San Marino, which were due to expire at the end of March.
Analysts said the move, which follows a strong sell-off in Central European currencies, including the zloty following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would strengthen Poland’s central bank’s ability to support the zloty if necessary.
Piotr Bujak, chief economist at PKO Bank Polski, Poland’s largest bank, said the establishment of the swap line with the ECB “is a delayed effect of the very significant pressure we have seen on currencies of the region at the beginning of March”.
“But of course it is possible that we will see further episodes of currency pressure in the region and in that context I think it is a reasonable move,” he added. “I think it’s a potentially useful tool, even if it’s not actually used. Even as a precautionary tool, it supports the zloty.
The financing agreements will provide central banks outside the euro zone with access to euros which could guarantee their foreign exchange interventions or be injected into the banking system in the event of a decline in their stock of currencies.
Central and Eastern European countries bore much of the brunt of the immediate fallout from the crisis in Ukraine, as 3.8 million refugees fled the war-torn country, of whom more than 2.3 million arrived in Poland.
The proximity of these countries to the conflict and their economic ties with Russia and Ukraine have caused investor concern and put significant downward pressure on national currencies.
The depreciation of the Polish and Hungarian currencies pushed up the price of imports, adding to the upward pressure on inflation, which reached more than 8% in both countries.
Poland’s central bank has been spending euros in recent weeks to defend the zloty, which fell to its lowest level against the euro since the global financial crisis earlier this month. Hungary’s central bank did not intervene in currency markets, but it did raise interest rates by 1 percentage point last week, helping the forint recover from recent lows against the euro.
The ECB noted“In the context of heightened geopolitical tensions triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the lines are designed to prevent ripple effects on financial markets and economies in the euro area that could adversely affect the smooth transmission of the monetary policy of the ECB.”
Poland has recently stood out as one of the few major European countries outside the euro zone that has not concluded a financing agreement with the ECB. The Frankfurt-based central bank has already concluded similar agreements with Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria, as well as with the United States, the United Kingdom, China , Japan and Canada.
The ECB’s latest moves were separate from its discussions with the European Commission on ways to help Ukrainian refugees, many of whom are struggling to exchange the Ukrainian hryvnia for other European currencies.