The European Central Bank is considering buying corporate bonds on the secondary market and may decide on the matter as soon as December with a view to begin buying early next year, several sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
The ECB has already carried out work on such purchases, which would widen out the private-sector asset-buying programme it began on Monday - stimulus it is deploying to try to foster lending to businesses and thereby support the euro zone economy.
"The pressure in this direction is high," said one person familiar with the work inside the ECB, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the possibility of making such purchases, an ECB spokesman said: "The Governing Council has taken no such decision."
The ECB's policymaking Governing Council could discuss the possibility of making such purchases at its December meeting, two of the four sources Reuters spoke to said. All four said such plans were being discussed.
The policymakers could decide at the December meeting to go ahead with the purchases, but such a step is not certain. Should the Council decide in December to proceed, the purchases on the secondary market could begin in the first quarter of 2015, one of the sources said.
The ECB began buying covered bonds on Monday, part of a private-sector asset-purchase programme that will also see it buy bundled loans known as asset-backed securities (ABS) later this year.
However, there is concern at the ECB that these measures may have an insufficient impact to help support the economy.
"In the view of many Governing Council members, the economic picture has recently taken a turn for the worse," one of the sources told Reuters.