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England, Europe, Greece *PIC*

Bank of England boosts bond buys, holds rates (by William L. Watts)

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) -- The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee on Thursday boosted the size of its asset-purchase program by 50 billion pounds to a total of 325 billion pounds and voted to leave the central bank's key lending rate unchanged at a record low 0.5%. The bond-buying program is the centerpiece of the central bank's quantitative-easing strategy. Both moves were expected.

Bank of England: Near-term growth outlook is weak (by Polya Lesova)

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- The Bank of England said on Thursday that the pace of expansion in the U.K.'s main export markets has slowed and concerns remain about the indebtedness and competitiveness of some euro-area countries. "In the light of its most recent economic projections, the committee judged that the weak near-term growth outlook and associated downward pressure from economic slack meant that, without further monetary stimulus, it was more likely than not that inflation would undershoot the 2% target in the medium term," the central bank said in a statement, as it announced an increase in the size of its asset-purchase program by £50 billion to a total of £325 billion.

ECB holds key lending rate at 1% (by William L. Watts)

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) -- The European Central Bank on Thursday left its key lending rate unchanged at a record low 1%. The decision was widely expected. Attention now turns to ECB President Mario Draghi's monthly news conference at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

Draghi: Economic outlook faces downside risks (by Polya Lesova)

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said at a press conference on Thursday that survey and hard data are pointing to a gradual stabilization of economic activity at low levels in the euro area, but he also noted that the "economic outlook remains subject to high uncertainty and downside risks." Discussing the fiscal compact to which most European Union countries have committed, Draghi said the compact is "the first timid step toward a fiscal union."

Greek political deal imminent says media reports ( GD ) (by Barbara Kollmeyer)

MADRID (MarketWatch) -- Media outlets reported Thursday that a deal between Greek political leaders over austerity measures has been reached and a statement will be released shortly. Earlier in the day, a five-hour meeting of party leaders had failed to reach agreement over austerity cuts demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund as a prerequisite for a 130 billion euro ($170 billion) second rescue package. The funds are needed to keep Greece from defaulting on a bond repayment in March. The FT reported on its eurozone crisis blog that an official in the prime minister's office said: "There's an agreement, Mr. Papademos has met with Mr. Samaras and it's done. There will be a statement shortly." Antonis Samaras is leader of the conservative New Democracy party. The Athens Composite index (gr:gd) was trading flat at 808.98

ECB's Draghi: Greece agreement has been reached (by Polya Lesova)

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said at a press conference on Thursday that he has received a call from the Greek prime minister informing him that an agreement has been reached and endorsed by the major political parties in the country. Greek officials have been trying for several days to reach agreement on new austerity measures demanded by international creditors in exchange for a second bailout. Draghi declined to comment on the ECB's position on its holdings of Greek government bonds.

Greek PM office: Agreement with troika completed (by Polya Lesova)

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said in a statement on Thursday that the government's discussions with the troika of international creditors "were concluded successfully this morning on the issue which had remained open for further elaboration." The troika of international lenders are the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. "The political leaders have agreed on the result of these discussions," the statement said, adding that there is "general agreement on the content of the new program." The leaders of Greece's major political parties had struggled for several days to reach agreement on new austerity measures demanded by international creditors in exchange for a second bailout package. The news comes ahead of this evening's meeting of euro-zone finance ministers in Brussels where the second loan package for Greece will be discussed.

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England, Europe, Greece *PIC*
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