April 23, 2018 / 4:32 PM / in a year

ECB's government debt pile shrinks for first time as debt matures

FILE PHOTO: The European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters are pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank’s 2 trillion-euro pile of government debt, the centerpiece of its stimulus policy, shrank for the first time last week as the ECB failed to roll over the bonds that matured, data showed on Monday.

It was the first time the ECB was unable to keep pace with the redemptions of its government bonds, in a new sign of its struggle in finding enough paper to buy to keep the 2.55 trillion euro ($3.11 trillion) program running.

This was launched in 2015 to stave off the threat of deflation and bring price growth in the euro zone to the ECB’s target of just under 2 percent.

The ECB aims to buy 30 billion euros worth of bonds per month and, having bought some 22 billion euros worth so far in April, it could still comfortably hit its monthly target.

But worries about scarcity were set to be at the back of policy-makers’ minds as they debated when and how to wind down the quantitative easing program, widely expected to end at the end of this year.

Inflation in the euro zone has stabilized at just over 1 percent.

Reporting by Francesco Canepa

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