BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Central Bank could begin exiting its phase of loose monetary policy from July, ECB Executive Board Member Juergen Stark was quoted as saying by German weekly magazine WirtschaftsWoche on Saturday.
"At the start of July the banks in the euro zone must return 442 billion euros ($542.4 billion) to the ECB which it had lent them for a year," he said. "That would be a possible start for the gradual exit, whereby we'll smooth the transition," he added.
Whether it came to this would depend both on the economic recovery and how the money supply behaved, he said.
"The global crisis is not over yet, on the contrary, we're still right in the midst of a new critical phase," Stark added, noting that "the danger has not yet passed that banks might start not to trust each other and to not lend each other money.
The Frankfurt-based ECB's main lending rate is currently at a record low of 1 percent.
Dirk Schumacher, an economist at Goldman Sachs, said Stark's comments did not point to any switch in policy, and hence did not appear likely to prompt any significant market reaction.
"The ECB had already announced in March it was not going to renew the one year tender to banks," Schumacher said. "But because it's still doing the three- and six-month tenders, this will not actually alter the liquidity situation."
The crisis over euro zone debt levels had already pushed back the date at which the ECB would begin raising interest rates again, Schumacher added. This was unlikely to take place before the second quarter of 2011, he said.
In February, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised the interest rate it charges banks for emergency loans to 0.75 percent from 0.50 percent, its first rate move since the end of 2008.
The Fed on Friday announced plans to test a new facility it could use to withdraw some of the extraordinary stimulus it pumped into the economy during the recession, but stressed it was not embarking on a tightening of monetary policy yet.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Jason Webb)