The European Central Bank handed Belgian Peter Praet its Executive Board economics portfolio on Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter said, denying Germany for the first time the coveted job that brings with it responsibility for shaping monetary policy.

Praet, a member of the six-member board since last year, replaces German arch-hawk Juergen Stark in the economics role - a position which gives him responsibility for setting the template for ECB interest rate decisions.

The board's decision to give Praet, 62, the coveted portfolio smacks of a compromise. Newcomers Benoit Coeure of France and Joerg Asmussen of Germany, both of whom joined the board from January 1, had been seen as the frontrunners.

A German had previously always held the role - Otmar Issing preceded Stark - but Asmussen did not have as strong an economics background as Coeure, or Praet, who was born in Germany.

The economics role will allow Praet to take the lead at the ECB's monetary policy meetings, suggesting what interest rate action the bank should take - a proposal that will then form the basis for discussion by the Governing Council's 23 policymakers.

Asmussen will take the ECB international relations role on the ECB board and Coeure the market operations portfolio, which brings with it responsibility for overseeing the bank's controversial bond-buying programme.

(Reporting by Alexander Huebner and Andreas Framke, writing by Paul Carrel)