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Riksbank expands QE as second pandemic wave hits

Stockholm — Sweden's central bank said on Thursday it would expand and extend its asset-purchase programme to support the economy through a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, as it kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 0%, as expected.

Parts of Europe are reimposing lockdowns and Sweden is tightening restrictions, so the economic recovery is expected to stall in the coming months. The slowdown is still forecast to be milder than in the second quarter, when Swedish GDP contracted a record 8.3%.

“By expanding and extending the asset-purchase programme, the Riksbank is making it clear that comprehensive monetary policy support will be available as long as it is needed,” the Riksbank said in a statement.

The central bank will add 200-billion Swedish krona ($23.47bn) to its quantitative easing programme, taking it up to 700-billion krona, also extending purchases to the end of 2021.

Further tweaking will see the central bank include treasury bills and sovereign and municipal green bonds. The Riksbank will also increase the pace of purchases in the fourth quarter.

“The expansion of its asset-purchase programme shows that it (the Riksbank) will not stand idly by as the economy heads south in Q4,” David Oxley, senior European economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

Two rate-setters voted against the expansion of the QE programme.

Deputy governor Anna Breman wanted an additional 100-billion krona, while Martin Floden said the Riksbank should merely pledge that policy would remain expansionary as long as necessary.

The fresh boost to the Riksbank's economic rescue package comes ahead of the European Central Bank's meeting in December at which it is widely expected to take more action, likely in the form of more bond purchases or cheap credit for banks.

The Riksbank's programme includes loans and asset purchases to support credit supply and liquidity in the banking system and soften the blow to the economy of a virus that has killed more than 6,500 in Sweden. It has not cut the benchmark interest rate.

•  Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and his wife Princess Sofia have tested positive for Covid-19, the Swedish royal court said on Thursday.  Carl Philip is fourth in the line of succession to the Swedish throne.

Reuters

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