ECB says its massive bond-buying program will likely end in December

The European Central Bank (ECB) outlined plans to end its massive stimulus program by the end of this year.

Until now, this quantitative easing (QE) program was scheduled to last until September, carrying monthly purchases of 30 billion euros ($ 35 billion) of government and private debt. This will now be reduced to 15 billion euros during the last three months of 2018.

“The Governing Council anticipates that, after September 2018, subject to incoming data confirming the Governing Council’s medium-term inflation outlook, the monthly pace of the net asset purchases will be reduced to 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018 and that net purchases will then end,” the ECB said in a statement Thursday.

QE is aimed at boosting lending in the region and stimulating growth, following the severe contraction seen earlier in the decade. Thursday’s announcement was widely expected by market participants.

Market players had described this month’s meeting as being “live,” following remarks by the central bank’s chief economist that the ECB would start preparing to end its stimulus. ECB’s Peter Praet said last week the bank would be discussing how to unwind its asset purchase program — which was implemented in 2015 to revamp the euro economy in the wake of the 2011 sovereign debt crisis.

Germany’s ECB representative, Jens Weidmann, also said last week that he expects the trillion-euro program to come to an end before the end of this year.

David Zahn, the head of European fixed income at investment firm Franklin Templeton, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Friday that the ECB had “spent 2.5 trillion (euros) to do QE, and they want to make sure they don’t exit too quickly and kinda end up wasting over 2 trillion euros.”

The ECB has been under renewed scrutiny over the last few weeks. Some analysts and officials have suggested that stronger economic data in the region requires a tighter attitude towards monetary policy. The new anti-establishment government in Italy has also voiced some criticisms of the central bank.

Members from the new government accused the ECB of market manipulation by buying more German bonds in May and less Italian debt. Experts told CNBC that there were technical reasons that justified such purchases last month.

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