ECB backs proposals to revive EU market for asset-backed securities

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – ECB President Mario Draghi backed a plan to revive Europe’s weakened market for asset-backed securities (ABS), saying on Monday that it was well designed to strengthen the sector while guaranteeing financial stability.

ABS are securities based on pooled loans such as mortgages. The continent’s ABS market has shrunk to half its size since the global financial crisis in 2008-2009 which was triggered by a collapse of this sector in the United States.

The European Commission proposed in September a plan to relaunch ABS in Europe by lowering capital requirements for a new category of “simple, transparent and standardized” (STS) debt.

The EU executive proposals represent “a very strong package that achieved a balance between the need to revive the European securitization market and the need to preserve the prudential regulatory framework,” Draghi said.

He told the economic and monetary affairs committee of the European Parliament in Brussels that the ECB is preparing a formal opinion on the Commission’s proposals. The 28 EU states have approved the legislative package a few weeks after its publication, in an unusual example of quick EU legislative process.

The European Parliament needs to vote on the package before it can be turned into law.

The ECB has bought 17.8 billion euros ($19.8 billion) of ABS as part of a debt-buying program started in November 2014 to help banks diversify funding sources and revamp the market for credit in Europe.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)