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FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank will end asset purchases in the third quarter, it said on Thursday, moving ahead with its exit from stimulus as soaring inflation outweighs concerns about the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With price growth in the euro zone at a record high even before Moscow began its assault on Feb. 24, the ECB’s more hawkish policymakers had been pushing for an early end to stimulus, paving the way for an interest rate hike this year.

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While policy doves argued the war justified a pause for thought, February’s record 5.8% inflation rate and the prospect of an even higher reading in March intensified pressure on the bank to act in line with its inflation-busting mandate. “The Russia-Ukraine war will have a material impact on economic activity and inflation through higher energy and commodity prices, the disruption of international commerce and weaker confidence,” ECB President Christine Lagarde told a news conference, calling the conflict a “watershed for Europe”. “The risks to the economic outlook have increased substantially with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are tilted to the downside,” she added, conceding that ECB policy-makers had aired differing views on what that meant.

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