Dec 8, 5:34 AM EST

ECB under pressure to extend stimulus amid uncertainties

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AP Photo/Michael Probst

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The European Central Bank is expected to extend its main stimulus program in an effort to secure economic growth and inflation in a region beset by political uncertainties.

Analysts say the central bank for the 19 euro countries is likely Thursday to extend by at least six months past March the earliest end date of its stimulus program, in which it buys 80 billion euros ($86 billion) in bonds a month.

A decision not to could worsen market concerns about Italy, where Premier Matteo Renzi has resigned and there are concerns about the banks.

The ECB will also issue new forecasts for growth and inflation, which it wants to push up to healthier levels. At last count, inflation was 0.6 percent, far below the aim of just under 2 percent.

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