ECB launches program to buy asset-backed securities

The European Central Bank has started buying asset-backed securities, it said on Friday, in a move to encourage banks to lend and revive the economy.

"Following publication of legal act on the implementation of the ABS purchase program, the Eurosystem has started the purchases on 21/11/2014," the ECB said on its Twitter feed.

The program is one plank in a strategy which ECB chief Mario Draghi hopes will increase its balance sheet by up to 1 trillion euros. It already buys covered bonds, a secure form of debt often backed by property.

The ABS and covered bond programs will last for at least two years. The ECB will give a weekly updated on its purchases on its website around 1430 GMT on Mondays, as it is already doing with the covered bond purchases. ( )

If it falls short of this overall 1 trillion euro mark and fails to boost the economy significantly, pressure to print money to buy government bonds, also known as quantitative easing, will reach fever pitch.

However, expectations among market experts for the program are muted.

To limit its risk, the ECB will buy only the most secure part of such loans in the hope that others pile in behind it to buy riskier credit.

To read about details of the ECB program published in October, click on:

(Reporting by Eva Taylor and John O'Donnell; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)