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The European Central Bank left interest rates on hold as the debt crisis tightens its grip on the euro-area economy, increasing pressure on policy makers to deliver further stimulus.

ECB officials meeting in Frankfurt today kept the benchmark interest rate at a record low of 1 percent, as predicted by 49 of 60 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Ten forecast a quarter-point reduction and one a half-point cut. With European governments struggling to fix a crisis that’s engulfing Spain and could force Greece out of the euro, economists say the ECB may soon be forced to lower rates and introduce more liquidity support for banks.

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