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Noonan calls on the ECB to buy up bonds

Quantitative easing (QE) would lead to a depreciation of the euro which would be a boon for Irish exporters, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said.

Mr Noonan said the European Central Bank (ECB) needs to find ways of QE - buying sovereign bonds - saying monetary policy in Europe was weak.

But the ECB has been reluctant to embark on a sovereign bond-buying programme amid opposition coming chiefly from Germany.

The ECB is carefully watching how the plunge in oil prices will affect inflation in the Eurozone, now at 0.3pc and far below its target, and is weighing up whether to do more to keep the region from slipping into outright deflation.

Broad-based purchases of sovereign bonds are seen as the ECB's last resort to revive the stagnating economy, as with the key interest rate at record lows of 0.05pc the bank has largely exhausted its other monetary options.

Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann is one of the most outspoken opponents of the move on the ECB's governing council. He's concerned that the central bank could lose sight of its mandate to keep prices stable.

Asked about the benefits of QE for the Irish economy, Mr Noonan said a programme of quantitative easing would be expected to lower borrowing costs and increase the supply of credit to the real economy.

"In this way, real economic activity in the euro area would be expected to increase and inflation in the euro area as a whole would move back towards target," the minister said in response to a parliamentary question.

"The Irish economy would, therefore, benefit from both the reduction in borrowing costs and the improvement in activity in key export markets."