BERLIN -- Banks in the eurozone will pay back early (euro) 137.2 billion ($183 billion) of the huge injection of cheap, three-year emergency loans they received from the European Central Bank about a year ago.
The ECB launched the unprecedented lending operation at the end of 2011, loaning out a bit over (euro) 1 trillion in two batches as it sought to relieve stress on banks at the height of the debt crisis in the 17 countries that use the euro.
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The central bank said Friday that 278 lenders would make early repayments. Economists' forecasts for repayments had ranged between (euro) 100 and (euro) 200 billion.
The ECB's aim was to ensure lenders had enough funding to do business so that the flow of credit to the wider economy wasn't squeezed.