ECB might ease Greek restrictions if aid deal likely -source
By Marc Jones
LONDON May 28 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank might ease restrictions on how much short-term Greek government debt the country's banks can hold if becomes clear the euro zone will disburse long-awaited aid to Athens, a banking source said on Wednesday.
The ECB has kept up pressure on cash-strapped Greece in recent months by capping the amount of Treasury bills the country's banks are allowed to hold, effectively cutting off the government's main borrowing channel.
"The (T-bill) ceiling might be raised if there is a credible prospect of a (euro zone) disbursement," said a source who requested anonymity.
"If the 1.9 billion euros of SMP profits were released, that could be the signal," the source said, referring to money the ECB has made on Greek bonds it bought in 2010-11 as it tried to contain the escalating debt crisis.
The ECB said on Wednesday it had no comment on the possibility of raising the ceiling. But ECB board member Benoit Coeure said in an interview last week Greece could "relieve funding constraints" by securing aid and ultimately restoring bond market access.
If Greece did secure a new deal, its bonds would also automatically be eligible for the ECB to purchase from August through its 1 trillion-euro quantitative easing programme.
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