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ECB holds interest rates at historic low

Berlin - The European Central Bank (ECB) held interest rates at a record low on Thursday in the face of global economic uncertainty, volatile financial markets and political turbulence in Europe.

Meeting for the last time this year, the ECB's 25-member governing council said it was holding its benchmark refinancing rate at zero.

The Frankfurt-based bank also confirmed that it plans to wind up its almost four-year 2.6-trillion-euro (3-trillion-dollar) bond-buying programme by the end of December.

ECB chief Mario Draghi is expected to unveil later Thursday new lower growth and inflation projections amid signs that the eurozone has lost economic momentum amid the threat to global growth posed by US-China trade tensions as well as European political turbulence.

Announcing its decisions on Thursday, the governing council again raised the prospects of interest rates rising from the middle of next year.

In its statement, the ECB said that key interest rates would "remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019" so as to ensure that consumer prices in the eurozone were in line with the bank's annual inflation target of just below 2 per cent.

In addition to the refinancing rate, the ECB announced that it was holding its deposit rate at minus 0.4 per cent and the marginal lending rate at plus 0.25 per cent.

The ECB also set out a new reinvestment strategy for maturing bonds as part of its efforts to reassure financial markets that monetary policy in the 19-member eurozone will remain accommodative once the bond-purchasing scheme winds down.

The bank intends to continue reinvesting "the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the asset purchases programme for an extended period of time past the date when it starts raising the key ECB interest rates."

The measures would be taken "for as long as necessary to maintain favourable liquidity conditions," the statement said.