ECB bond purchases up again

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The European Central Bank said Monday it increased its weekly purchases of eurozone bonds that are part of a programme aimed at driving down borrowing costs and fighting the debt crisis.

The ECB said it bought 3.36 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in bonds last week, up from just 635 million euros the previous week.

The ECB, as usual, did not specify which government bonds it had bought.

The bank has now bought a total 211 billion euros in eurozone government bonds since it first began the controversial operations early last year as part of efforts to ease debt strains in the 17-nation bloc.

It resumed major purchases in August when fresh strains pushed Italian and Spanish borrowing rates to unsustainable levels but purchases have dropped sharply in the past two weeks.

Several European governments have put pressure on the ECB to step up its programme of buying bonds, seen by some as a possible solution to the debt crisis.

But the ECB, backed by Germany, has steadfastly refused, arguing that its sole responsibility is to keep eurozone prices stable.

ECB chief Mario Draghi has repeatedly insisted that the programme of buying up the sovereign bonds of debt-wracked countries is limited and temporary.

© 2011 AFP

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