In the past three years, securities holdings rose by EUR 92 billion, mainly as part of the Eurosystem's asset purchase programmes, which are aimed at driving up inflation. The bulk of this increase took place in the first two years (+ EUR 76 billion), with holdings of securities under the purchase programme as a percentage of DNB's total assets expanding to 31%, from 22% at end March 2015. Between end March 2017 and end March 2018, securities holdings climbed by EUR 16 billion, of which EUR 3 billion in the first quarter of 2018. This is well below the EUR 10 billion rise seen in the first quarter of 2017, as the volume of joint monthly purchases by the Eurosystem was brought down from EUR 80 billion to EUR 60 billion in April 2017, and further reduced to EUR 30 billion in January 2018. At the end of March 2018, 80% of DNB's securities holdings consisted of debt paper issued by euro-area governments; this represents a three percentage point fall on the year-earlier period, when the proportion of these securities saw its peak of the past three years. This is due to a relative increase in the proportion of corporate bonds and covered bonds in the Eurosystem's monthly purchases.
The TARGET2 balance grew by EUR 41 billion in the past quarter. This balance reflects the claims that DNB has on the Eurosystem and results from cross-border payments, mainly initiated by private institutions, within the EU settled in euro by the central banks. The proportion of these claims expressed as a percentage of DNB's total assets at end March 2018 is 31% and has remained largely unchanged as compared with end March 2017. The EUR 10 billion increase in the TARGET2 balance between end March 2017 and end March 2018 is sharply lower than that seen in the preceding two years, when this balance expanded by EUR 99 billion, which further explains the flattening expansion of DNB's balance sheet.