The European Central Bank more than doubled its purchases of government bonds in the first week of Mario Draghi's presidency, data showed, with no let-up expected in the controversial program until the euro zone debt crisis eases.

Purchases totaled to 9.52 billion euros, Monday's ECB bond-buying data showed.

That compared with the previous week's 4 billion euros and was the most the bank has spent since mid-September, taking the programme's overall spend to 183 billion euros. (for full details click.)

The jump in outlays comes days after Draghi took over from Jean-Claude Trichet, and as the bank continues to publicly resist pressure from -- among others -- the United States, Britain and Russia, to step up the purchases to better shield Italy, Spain and other debt-strained euro states.

In his first news conference as ECB president last week, Draghi offered no commitment to scaling up the bank's bond-buying, describing it as a limited program.

Over the weekend Yves Mersch, one of the ECB's longest-standing policymakers, also downplayed political expectations, saying the bank would stop buying bonds if it felt beneficiaries were not doing enough to repair their finances.

But with tensions remaining high in bond markets, the data spoke loudest.

Draghi said that the ECB wanted to get back to concentrating on interest rates but their actions tell a different story, said DZ Bank economist Thomas Meissner.

They will definitely keep on lowering interest rates and it looks like they will definitely keep buying government bonds... 9.5 billion euros sounds a lot but it is not having the desired result, he said, pointing to the record difference between Italian and German government borrowing costs.


The ECB reactivated its bond-buying - known as the Securities Markets Programme - in August after a four-month break, as the crisis began to directly affect Italy and Spain, two of the euro zone's biggest economies.

Under the program, the ECB and the 17 euro zone national central banks can buy government and corporate bonds from banks and other investors, but not directly from governments. It is designed to keep bond markets in check and ensure the full benefit of the ECB's low interest rates are felt.

The bank does not give a country-by-country breakdown of its purchases.

However, analysts and traders estimate it has bought around 45 billion euros of Greek debt and has concentrated largely on Italian and Spanish debt with the 100 billion euros plus it has spent since restarting its purchases in August.

Noting Draghi's deliberately guarded words at last week's policy meeting, traders say the ECB has been steadily buying Italian and Spanish bonds since he took over as president.

The interventions have so far failed to cap a steady climb in borrowing costs, however. Italian yields hit a fresh 14-year high of 6.67 percent on Monday, close to the 7 percent level many economists see as unsustainable.

The bond purchases are reported every week but take two to three days to settle, meaning that when the bank is buying, the figures do not necessarily give the full picture.

This week's spending was significantly more than traders polled by Reuters had expected.