ECB hands out $712 billion in loans to banks

Activists of the Occupy Frankfurt movement have set up a fireplace near the Euro sculpture in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany Nov.3, 2011. The ECB announced to lower their key interest rate to 1.25 percent.
AP Photo/Michael Probst

FRANKFURT, Germany - The European Central Bank has made 529.5 billion euro ($712.4 billion) in low-interest loans to banks in the second round of a massive credit infusion credited with easing the eurozone debt crisis.

The offer of credit for three years was taken up Wednesday by 800 banks. The uptake was modestly higher than the 489 billion euro ($657.9 billion) handed out to 523 banks at a first offering on Dec. 21.

Banks used some of the money from the first round of loans to buy government bonds.

That lowered borrowing costs for hard-pressed governments struggling to maintain large amounts of debt, and eased fears of a market meltdown from Europe's troubles with too much government debt.