ECB says bond purchases up slightly

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The European Central Bank said Monday it increased its weekly purchases of eurozone bonds as part of efforts to drive down borrowing costs and fight the debt crisis.

The ECB bought up 8.581 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in bonds last week, compared to 7.986 billion euros the previous week.

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

The bank has now bought a total 203.5 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 renewed strains pushed Italian and Spanish borrowing rates to unsustainable levels.

According to a recent unconfirmed press report, the ECB has secretly set a 20-billion-euro limit on its weekly purchases of sovereign bonds.

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.

© 2011 AFP

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