The European Central Bank expanded its quantitative-easing program to exceed 2.2 trillion euros ($2.4 trillion) by the end of 2017, buying at a reduced monthly pace with the caveat that it can step up or prolong purchases if needed.

The Governing Council will extend the program from April at a slower speed of 60 billion euros ($65 billion) a month from 80 billion euros currently, according to a statement in Frankfurt on Thursday.

If "the outlook becomes less favorable or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress toward a sustained adjustment of the path of inflation, the Governing Council intends to increase the program in terms of size and/or duration," it said in a statement.

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