The European Central Bank has provided an extra €60 billion in long-term financing for banks and other lenders.

The ECB auction, which had been announced in early November, took place at an average rate of 4.88% and a marginal rate - the lowest rate at which bids were accepted - of 4.81%, the bank said in a statement. The 4.88% figure was the highest since November 2000.

The bank's main rate is currently 4%. During the last similar operation on November 22, the average rate stood at 4.61% and the marginal rate at 4.55%.

Today's outcome suggested that euro zone banks and other institutional lenders were still having to accept substantial interest rates to obtain funds used to provide credit to commercial  customers.

Banks have become more wary of lending to each other because it is unclear how many are still hiding huge losses from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. On Monday Swiss bank UBS announced a $10 billion write-down, after taking a $3.7 billion hit in October.