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ECB spent €22bn buying up bonds

THE European Central Bank splashed out €22bn buying up Government bonds to keep Italy and Spain from the brink of financial disaster.

The purchases have driven down the high interest yields that were threatening those countries' finances and last week's buys bring to €96bn the total amount the ECB has so far devoted to the programme.

French and German leaders are meeting for talks in Paris today, but Berlin officials have warned that this latest meeting won't deliver "a political stroke" to end the eurozone crisis. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman insisted that the idea of so-called "eurobonds" wasn't even on the agenda.

Eurobonds would replace sovereign bonds, pooling eurozone risk to reduce refinancing costs for members such as Greece and Italy. But it would mean that borrowing costs would rise for countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, as a common eurobond could cost them their top triple-A rating.