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COVID-induced sovereign risk in the euro area: When did the ECB stop the spread?

Aymeric Ortmans and Fabien Tripier

European Economic Review, 2021, vol. 137, issue C

Abstract: This paper studies how the announcement of the ECB’s monetary policies stopped the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to the European sovereign debt market. We show that up to March 9, the occurrence of new cases in euro area countries had a sizeable and persistent effect on 10-year sovereign bond spreads relative to Germany: 10 new confirmed cases per million people were accompanied by an immediate spread increase of 0.03 percentage points (ppt) that lasted 5 days, for a total increase of 0.35 ppt. For periods afterwards, the effect falls to near zero and is not significant. We interpret this change as an indicator of the success of the ECB’s March 12 press conference, despite the “we are not here to close spreads” controversy. Our results hold for the stock market, providing further evidence of the effectiveness of the ECB’s March 12 announcements in stopping the financial turmoil. A counterfactual analysis shows that without the shift in the sensitivity of sovereign bond markets to COVID-19, spreads would have surged to 4.2% in France, 12.5% in Spain, and 19.5% in Italy by March 18, when the ECB’s Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme was finally announced.

Keywords: COVID-19; European Central Bank; Sovereign debt; Monetary policy; Local projections (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E52 E58 E65 H63 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2021.103809

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