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ECB drops easing bias en route to stimulus exit

The European Central Bank dropped a long-standing pledge on Thursday to increase its bond buying if needed, taking another small step in weaning the euro zone economy off protracted stimulus.

Keeping its broader policy unchanged, the ECB said it could still extend its 2.55 trillion euro ($3.16 trillion) bond purchase scheme beyond September if needed. But it omitted a reference to bigger purchases, a signal that it remains on track to end a three-year-old stimulus scheme before the end of 2018.

Having revived euro zone growth with lavish stimulus, the ECB has been dialing back support in tiny increments, fearing any big change could unravel its work and force an embarrassing and economically damaging policy reversal.

β€œThe net asset purchases, at the current monthly pace of 30 billion euros, are intended to run until the end of September 2018, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim,” the ECB said in a statement after its regular policy meeting.

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