ECONOMY

Germany warns ECB about limits to helping Spain, Italy

Bundesbank president Weidmann says it must not "overstep its own mandate"

Germany continues to put pressure on the European Central Bank not to exceed its key mandate of controlling inflation by buying Spanish and Italian government debt in the secondary market.

In an interview posted Wednesday on the Bundesbank's website to mark the German central bank's 55th anniversary, the bank's current president, Jens Weidmann, said the ECB's independence "requires it to respect and not overstep its own mandate."

The interview with former central bank chief Helmut Schlesinger was held on June 29. "We are the largest and most important central bank in the Eurosystem and we have a greater say than many other central banks in the Eurosystem," Weidmann said.

His remarks were published just a day before the ECB is due to hold its monthly monetary policy committee meeting. Expectations have grown about decisions that could be made at that meeting after ECB President Mario Draghi last week said he would do everything possible to ensure the continuation of the euro.

Weidmann said the ability of the ECB to act in resolving the euro crisis should not be "overestimated."

Draghi's remarks were taken to mean that the ECB along with the European rescue funds might buy the sovereign debt of distressed euro-zone members in the secondary market. That caused a rally in the Spanish debt and stock markets that petered out on Tuesday when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble poured cold water on the idea of the European rescue fund being allowed to buy sovereign debt

Spain's risk premium, however, narrowed again on Wednesday. The yield on the benchmark Spanish 10-year government bond stood at 6.732 percent as the spread with the German equivalent fell 10 basis points to 536. The Spanish blue-chip Ibex 35 index closed down 0.27 percent at 6,720.00 points.

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