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Uncharted seas for those who've known only boom

On December 6, the day after Brian Cowen delivered his latest Budget, the members of the European Central Bank's governing council gathered together to discuss their response to the continuing crisis in the world's financial markets.

Would it finally cut its interest rates, which had been held steady at 4 per cent since June despite the turmoil? No chance. The ECB has been prepared to pump hundreds of billions of euros into the money markets to ease fears of an end-of-year credit crunch, but it has refused to follow the rate-cutting lead of the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. Jean Claude Trichet, the ECB's governor, and his colleagues remain obsessed by inflation, which stands at a six-year high of 3.1 per cent for the eurozone.

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