The first time the phrase Emergency Liquidity Assistance, or ELA, was used in the context of Greece was in August 2011, when Greece was imploding, when its banking sector was on (and past) the verge of collapse, and just before the ECB had to unleash a global coordinated bailout with other central banks including global central bank liquidity swap and unleash the LTRO to preserve the Eurozone.
As a reminder, this is what happened back then: “In a move described as the “last stand for Greek banks”, the embattled country’s central bank activated Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for the first time on Wednesday night.”
“Although it was done discreetly, news that Athens had opened the fund filtered out and was one of the factors that rattled markets across Europe. At one point Germany’s Dax was down 4pc before it recovered. The ELA was designed under European rules to allow national central banks to provide liquidity for their own lenders when they run out of collateral of a quality that can be used to trade with the ECB. It is an obscure tool that is supposed to be temporary and one of the last resorts for indebted banks.”
Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe told The Telegraph: “The activation of the so-called ELA looks to be the last stand for Greek banks and suggests they are running alarmingly short of quality collateral usually used to obtain funding.”
He added: “This kicks off another huge round of nearly worthless assets being shifted from the books of private banks onto books backed by taxpayers. Combined with the purchases of Spanish and Italian bonds, the already questionable balance sheet of the euro system is looking increasingly risky.”
As a further reminder, this is how cryptically little the ECB has to say about its “last-ditch” liquidity bailout program:
Euro area credit institutions can receive central bank credit not only through monetary policy operations but exceptionally also through emergency liquidity assistance (ELA). ELA means the provision by a Eurosystem national central bank (NCB) of
central bank money and/or any other assistance that may lead to an increase in central bank money
to a solvent financial institution, or group of solvent financial institutions, that is facing temporary liquidity problems, without such operation being part of the single monetary policy.
We bring this up because things in Greece just went bump in the night. Again.