ECB's bond-buying plan referred to Europe's top court

A hearing at Germany's Constitutional Court The court says the bond-buying scheme is "incompatible" with EU law

Related Stories

An emergency measure that was credited with stabilising the euro has been referred to Europe's top court.

On Friday, Germany's constitutional court said that the European Central Bank's (ECB) bond-buying scheme could be "incompatible" with EU law.

The European Court of Justice will now decide the legality of the so-called debt "backstop", introduced in 2012.

Although the ECB has not used the emergency power, its existence calmed turmoil in European financial markets.

When he announced the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme, ECB President Mario Draghi said he would do "whatever it takes" to save the single currency.

But the German court has said there was good reason to think the OMT violated a ban on the bank funding governments.

In a statement, the court added: "There are important reasons to assume that it exceeds the European Central Bank's monetary policy mandate and thus infringes the powers of the member states."

Euro stability

However, the court also said it "considers it possible that if the OMT decision were interpreted restrictively" it could conform with EU law.

Analysis

The ECB has not spent a single euro on the government bond-buying programme announced in 2012. And yet the mere fact that it declared itself willing to act put an end to the turmoil in European financial markets, laying a foundation for a recovery of sorts in the wider economy.

Borrowing costs fell sharply for the eurozone countries in financial stress - notably Italy and Spain. In the meantime, some of the struggling economies have started to grow again and they have made progress in reducing their borrowing needs, so the need for the ECB's backstop has, perhaps, diminished a little.

And the European Court of Justice is seen as less likely to rule against the ECB. The German Court has raised some important questions and created new uncertainty about the response to the crisis. But, in practice, the impact would have been much greater had it come sooner, or not involved a referral to the EU's top judges.

Even though the OMT has not yet been used, confidence was restored to the markets at the suggestion that the ECB could buy unlimited amounts of a country's debt if investors pulled out.

If it were declared illegal, there could be big implications for the bloc and its single currency.

The euro fell to a session low against the dollar in response to the court's finding.

Block unlikely

However, it's thought unlikely the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will block the OMT policy.

"The (OMT's) chances are better in Luxembourg than in Karlsruhe," said Bert Van Rossebeke, from the Centre for European Politics in Freiburg.

Gunnar Beck, a European law expert at the University of London, said it would be unusual for the ECJ to obstruct a large, bloc-wide measure.

"Practically speaking, the court is not an independent organisation but is pre-disposed to interpret legal questions in the interest of the European Union," he added.

"The court of justice doesn't take account of national sensibilities... There is no doubt of the outcome now."

Analysts say it could take the ECJ up to two years to rule on the OMT programme.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    FLAGGING EUROPE? 10:40:
    EURO FLAGS

    European banks have borrowed 82.6bn euros (£65.2bn) under a new scheme by the European Central Bank to boost lending across the eurozone. That is much less than the 150bn euros forecasted and raises several questions. Do banks have an appetite for this financing? And should the ECB go for full blown quantitative easing, which means buying government debt?

     
  2.  
    SONY SHARES 10:25:
    Sony phones

    Sony shares plunged more than 10% in Tokyo. On Wednesday it warned of even deeper losses this year due to weakness at its mobile phone business. It also scrapped its dividend for the first time since Sony listed shares in 1958. Until yesterday investors had been feeling more optimistic about Sony's prospects, shares were up 25% over just six weeks.

     
  3.  
    RETAIL SALES 10:15:
    petrol pump

    A bit more on retail sales here from the ONS. It says average store prices fell 1.2% in August compared with the same month a year ago. That's the biggest fall in five years. Prices in petrol stations are down 5%, which was the main contributing factor. Meanwhile, prices in food stores only fell by 0.1% but that's the first fall recorded since December 2004. The fall is the direct result of the supermarket price wars, the ONS adds.

     
  4.  
    BEST BEFORE 10:04: BBC Radio 4

    Solveiga Pakstaite, from Brunel University has invented a new food label that could potentially replace "best before" descriptions on food packaging. She has just won the James Dyson UK design student award. Ms Pakstaite has designed a "bio reactive" food label, which can track the actual condition of the food within the packaging. She's in talks with one or two companies about the new labelling system, she tells Today.

     
  5.  
    HEADLINES
    • French Connection shares plunge on results
    • Alibaba to price shares after US market close
    • Phones 4U bondholders seek rescue deal
     
  6.  
    GOOGLE ROW 09:54:

    "Phew!! What a scorcher!! Murdoch accuses Google of eating his hamster!" That is Google's response to an accusation from News Corp that Google abuses its dominance in the internet search business. For a more considered response, Eric Schmidt wrote this letter to the Financial Times last week.

     
  7.  
    RETAIL SALES 09:45:
    woman with hoover

    Sales of electrical appliances were a big contributor to the retail sales figures in August, the Office for National Statistics says. Appliance sellers told the ONS, that sales of high-powered vacuum cleaners rose markedly as consumers sought to beat a ban imposed on them as part of EU energy saving regulations, which came into force at the end of August.

     
  8.  
    RETAIL SALES Breaking News
    Shoppers leave a Tesco store

    Retail sales volumes in August were 3.9% higher than the same month a year earlier, official figures show. That's a rise of 0.4% compared with July.

     
  9.  
    ZALANDO SHARE SALE 09:19:
    Zalando website

    The hoopla surrounding the Alibaba share sale may be drowning out another internet firm raising money. Late on Wednesday Zalando, Europe's biggest online fashion retailer, priced its shares in a range of 18 to 22.5 euros . The firm, based in Berlin, aims to raise up to 633m euros (£500m). Zalando was formed in 2008 when it began selling shoes.

     
  10.  
    PLUS-SIZE FASHION 09:01: Radio 5 live
    Evans show, London Fashion week

    "Consumers are getting bigger," says Maria Malone expert in fashion buying and merchandising at Manchester Metropolitan University. More retailers are offering bigger clothing and Evans had a plus-size fashion show at London fashion week (pictured). On Radio 5 live Ms Malone quotes research from Mintel, which found in 2008 the market was worth £3.2bn and by 2015 it forecasts that it will be worth £6bn.

     
  11.  
    FRENCH CONNECTION 08:50:

    French Connection shares have plunged 13%. Earlier the retailer said it remains "cautious" about the second half of the year and is "dependent" on the Christmas trading period. On the plus side, the company cut its half-year loss to £3.9m, from £6.1m in the previous year.

     
  12.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:26:

    European markets have opened slightly higher, following gains for US shares and Asian markets overnight. Investors have been encouraged by comments from the chair of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, who said US interest rates would remain low for a while longer. The FTSE 100 is up a touch at 6781.

     
  13.  
    TOSHIBA REVAMP 08:20:
    Toshiba building, Tokyo

    Japan's Toshiba is moving away from selling computers to consumers to focus on business customers. The reorganisation of its business will result in 900 job losses. The revamp will result in a cut to operating profit of 45bn yen (£250m). It says the consumer market for computers is "volatile and over-dependent on sales' scale and volume".

     
  14.  
    GOOGLE ROW 08:05: BBC Radio 4
    The Google logo

    Is Rupert Murdoch's accusation that Google is a "platform for piracy" timed to coincide with an European investigation into the search engine giant? Rory Cellan-Jones tells the Today programme big media owners such as Mr Murdoch may "sense an opportunity" to cause mischief after the European Commission, which had concluded its investigation into Google, reopened it under pressure from Germany and France.

     
  15.  
    BRIT IN BRUSSELS 07:55: BBC Radio 4

    "There is a real sense of scepticism," over the appointment of Lord Hill as the European Commissioner in charge of Financial Services across the European Union, BBC European correspondent Chris Morris tells the Today programme. Green MEP Philippe Lamberts tells the BBC: "When I first heard about this I thought it was a joke". He thinks Lord Hill will face a difficult confirmation hearing on 1 October. Lord Hill needs to prove he is "not just the personal envoy of David Cameron", another MEP tells the BBC.

     
  16.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 07:44: BBC Radio 4

    Bondholders of Phones 4U are offering to take losses on their debt, in return for saving the firm. To do that they will have to negotiate with the suppliers of network services like EE and Vodafone. This "calls the bluff of the networks" says BBC Business Editor Kamal Ahmed. It will test whether the networks really want to sell through independent retailers like Phones 4U, Kamal says.

     
  17.  
    EASYJET DIVIDEND 07:32:
    Easyjet

    Easyjet is raising its dividend from a third of profit to 40% of profit for its financial year, which runs to the end of September this year. It has also confirmed an option to buy 27 of the Airbus A320 aircraft. It expects to take delivery of the jets between 2015 and 2018.

     
  18.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "French Connection shares were 335p a decade ago. Now 70p"

     
  19.  
    FRENCH CONNECTION 07:21:
    A French Connection store front

    French Connection has reported a half year pre-tax loss of £3.9m, compared with a pre-tax loss of £6.1m for the same period a year earlier. Revenue for the period was £84m, down from £89m a year earlier. The company says it is remains "cautious" about the second half of the year and reminds investors it is "dependent" on the Christmas trading period.

     
  20.  
    ALIBABA SHARE SALE 07:09: BBC Radio 4

    Alibaba prices its shares after the close of trading in the US later today. Steven Hartley practice leader at Ovum Telecoms tells the Today programme the tech firm has about 80% of the e-commerce retail market in China. But he adds "only about half of the Chinese population has access to the internet" so the potential of a company with this kind of hold on the Chinese market is huge and that's why it is attracting so much investor attention.

     
  21.  
    'HAIRY HIPSTERS' 06:58:
    Hipster olympics Berlin

    Wake Up to Money speaks to some "hairy hipsters" in London's trendy Shoreditch. One claims to spend "as little as possible" on grooming. Martin Wood, from IRI says there has been a decline in the sales of razor blades. Those who do shave are doing it less frequently, perhaps because they work from home and the expense is an issue too, Mr Wood says.

     
  22.  
    END OF QE 06:52: BBC Radio 4

    Andrew Wilson of Goldman Sachs Asset Management tells the Today programme Wednesdays US Federal Reserve announcement on interest rates was "largely as expected". It reiterated that it will raise interest rates once a "considerable time" has passed after its stimulus programme ends in October. "Essentially it looks like 1.5% interest rates by the end of next year," he says.

     
  23.  
    ALIBABA SHARE SALE 06:30: Radio 5 live

    "You are getting a taste of the future," says Gordon Barber, from the centre for digital business at the University of Salford on Wake Up to Money. He browses the Alibaba website in his spare time. He says it can give an insight into where high street technology products will be in one or two years time.

     
  24.  
    ALIBABA SHARE SALE 06:16: Radio 5 live

    "Investors are punch drunk with new issues," says Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder and senior partner of Seven Investment Management on Wake Up to Money. He says that recent shares sales have been "overpriced" and "oversold". He adds investors want to wait until shares settle down before investing in firms like Alibaba.

     
  25.  
    ALIBABA SHARE SALE 06:10: Radio 5 live
    Alibaba HQ

    The BBC's Ali Moore in Singapore explains the extent of Alibaba on Wake Up to Money. It owns China's biggest online shopping site. It has an online payment system. It owns 35% of a department store chain and it wants a banking licence. But she says the firm does not face massive competition in its home market, so it's not clear how it will do outside China. Its shares are expected to be priced after the US markets close on Thursday.

     
  26.  
    PHONES 4U RESCUE 06:02: Radio 5 live
    Phones 4U store

    Bondholders "were extremely angry over what happened," says Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Seven Investment Management Wake Up to Money. He's referring to the collapse of Phones 4U. Its private equity owners took more than £200m out of the firm by loading it with debt. Now those holders of debt are offering to take a loss to keep the business going.

     
  27.  
    06:01: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. As always feel free to get in touch either on email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  28.  
    06:00: Ben Morris Business Reporter

    A group of Phones 4U creditors are offering a deal to help revive the firm, and find out why you should care about Alibaba. Stay with the Business live page.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.