The government hopes that the 10-year issue and another long-term offering later this year will make it eligible for help from the ECB's still-untested program of bond purchases, known as Outright Monetary Transactions, which would in turn help push its borrowing costs lower. "If there is some clarification forthcoming from the ECB as to whether Ireland has reached the bar required to qualify for OMT, then Ireland should be home and hosed on exiting the bailout program this year," said Lorcan Roche Kelly, chief European strategist at research firm TrendMacro.
There's a debate in Ireland happening tonight designed to help reduce the massive debt burden the country is still facing since the collapse of the country's banks in the financial crisis... Lorcan Roche Kelly of Trend Macrolytics has emailed us a fantastic explainer of what's going on in Ireland. This is the clearest explanation we've seen yet, and we're very grateful for Lorcan's clarity on this. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @lorcanrk.
In the wake of the collapse of the Irish property market, two of the worst Irish banks -- Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society -- were nationalized and turned into a new institution called Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) with the intention of working the institution down over a number of years.
The new institution had funding needs of over EUR 30 billion that were met by the government -- as owner of the institution -- writing a debt instrument called a Promissory Note. This note was repoed through the Irish Central Bank through a mechanism called Extraordinary Liquidity Assistance (ELA). Under ECB rules, ELA is outside normal ECB lending and is done at a national central bank level with ECB oversight.
The terms of the Promissory notes require payment at the end of each March of EUR 3.1 billion from current spending.
The current government -- elected in 2011 -- promised to reform the Promissory notes to end the arrangement requiring EUR 3.1 bn annual payments.
In the approach to to next payment -- due in 8 weeks the government has promised not to make the payment.
Two weeks ago a government proposal to exchange the prom notes with longer term debt on the Irish Central Bank balance sheet was rejected by the ECB.
Today's developments are the government trying to skin the cat another way. First, they are ending IBRC. After the passage of the legislation currently in front of the Dáil, it will no longer exist.
The IBRC assets will be moved to NAMA (Ireland's bad bank). The prom note will be replaced at the Irish Central Bank with NAMA issued bonds that are covered by a government guarantee.
The NAMA bonds will be structured like normal bonds -- only requiring annual interest payments until the end of their term -- and so will lead to reduced current expenditure in the short term.
However, this deal still has to be given the ok from the ECB who have oversight of the Irish Central Bank. They may make their decision tomorrow, if so it will be announced by Mario Draghi at the ECB press conference at 1:30 GMT.
The government and Honohan need to find a way to restructure the notes in a way that leaves the net impact on the money supply at zero. Otherwise Ireland's central bank could be accused of printing money, a policy opposed by the ECB.
A central bank commitment to hold Irish government bonds for 15 years "in this case would be for fiscal policy reasons, which makes it monetary financing, which is a no-no," said Lorcan Roche Kelly, chief Europe strategist at Trend Macrolytics LLC.
We chatted with analyst Lorcan Roche Kelly of Trend Macrolytics to get his take.
Well the big picture is that the ECB is the only central bank that's acting relatively "tight" right now. The Fed will be on hold for awhile. Japan is doing new easing. The Bank of England is likely to do more under Mark Carney. You get the picture.
...The LTRO paydown will cause the ECB balance sheet to shrink (!) next week. A shrinking balance sheet is rare in this day and age, but as Roche Kelly notes this shouldn't really be characterized as a tightening, since the ECB's policy stance remains the same. If banks need money, it's no more expensive than it was before, so there shouldn't be any real-world economic constraint by this balance sheet shrinkage.