Banks to repay $10bn of European Central Bank crisis loans

FRANKFURT (REUTERS) - Banks will return early 6.357 billion euros (S$10 billion) of crisis loans to the European Central Bank (ECB) next week, three times the expected amount.

The bigger-than-expected early repayment of the three-year crisis loans comes after ECB President Mario Draghi said on Monday the ECB is ready to cut interest rates further if the economy deteriorates, including the deposit rate now at zero.

Cutting the deposit rate into negative territory would mean the ECB charging banks for holding their money overnight - a scenario that would give them an incentive to reduce such cash holdings.

The ECB last week also extended its provision of unlimited funds to banks, saying it would prime them with as much liquidity as they need until at least July 2014. This gives banks more funding assurance.

Banks took over 1 trillion euros in three-year money from the ECB in two long-term refinancing operations (LTROs) in December 2011 and February 2012, of which the first matures in January 2015.

Banks now have the option to repay the loans early and on Friday, the ECB said five banks would repay 1.205 billion euros from the first LTRO on May 15 and 13 banks 5.152 billion euros from the second.

A Reuters poll of euro money market traders had expected banks to return a total of 2 billion euros next week.