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European court of justice hears arguments in challenge to ECB bond purchase program

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FRANKFURT, Germany — The European Union's Court of Justice has heard arguments in a challenge against the European Central Bank's program to purchase government bonds.

The ECB's 2012 offer to purchase government bonds is credited with stabilizing the euro currency union during its crisis over too much government debt. No bonds were purchased, but the mere possibility was enough to drive down bond-market interest rates for troubled governments such as Spain and Italy.

The bond offer was challenged, however, by a conservative German legislator and other plaintiff. They say it violated the EU treaty's ban on central bank financing of governments. Judges heard arguments Tuesday.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court referred the case to the European court since the case deals with an EU institution. No decision is expected until next year.

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