MILAN, March 7 (Reuters) - Italian banks held a total of 281 billion euros ($365.30 billion) in funds from the European Central Bank at the end of February, up from 273.9 billion euros a month earlier, Bank of Italy data showed on Thursday.
Funds borrowed through "longer refinancing operations" - mainly the cheap money Italian lenders took at the two three-year loans launched by the ECB - were slightly lower to 265.7 billion euros from 266.4 billion euros a month earlier.
They amounted to 268.3 billion euros at end-December.
Since January, banks have been allowed to make early repayments of money borrowed through the first ECB three-year loan. From the end of February they could also repay the second three-year refinancing operation.
These data hint to a negligible repayment of the funds borrowed through the two three-year loans by the Italian banks.
Italian lenders borrowed an overall 255 billion euros at the two special Long Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO) held by the ECB in December 2011 and February 2012. ($1 = 0.7692 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Antonella Ciancio)