Europe's central bank launches new program to calm markets

The ECB said it could buy up to $820 billion in government and private sector bonds

The European Central Bank is launching a new stimulus program.

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It will buy financial assets in a bid to calm markets as monetary authorities struggle to counter the devastation the cornavirus outbreak is wreaking on the global economy.

The ECB said it could buy up to 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in government and private sector bonds as well as commercial paper by year end.

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The gravity of the situation was underlined by the fact that the bank had just announced new stimulus efforts only last week and had to revisit them with an unusual decision between scheduled meetings.

The announcement Wednesday follows follows unscheduled action by the Federal Reserve, as global central bankers try to keep financial market dysfunction from further disrupting the world's economy and cushion a steep downturn in activity.

FED TAKES STEPS TO HELP BUSINESSES GET SHORT-TERM FUNDING

The Fed on Sunday slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero and said it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds. On Tuesday, it put in motion two emergency lending programs, last used during the 2008 financial crisis, that aim to ease the flow of credit to U.S. businesses and households struggling amid the viral outbreak.

The Trump administration, separately, is backing a roughly $850 billion emergency stimulus package, which would include sending checks directly to American households to help tide them over during the disruption.

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The ECB said its purchases, dubbed the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, would be aimed at keeping borrowing costs down to support the outlook for Europe's economy and make sure the bank's low benchmark rates keep getting through to businesses and consumers.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.