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ECB policymakers converge on QE extension at lower volumes

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - European Central Bank policymakers are in broad agreement to prolong asset purchases at a lower volume at their October meeting with views converging on a nine months extension, five people with direct knowledge of the discussion told Reuters.

With asset buys due to expire at the end of the year, policymakers plan to decide on Oct. 26 meeting whether to extend stimulus, having to reconcile between the bloc's best growth run in a decade with an inflation rate that will undershoot the bank's target through the end of the decade.

The next move, still up for discussion, is intended to signal both the need to cut support given strong growth, while at the same time committing to accommodation for a long time to come, the sources said.

The biggest debate is likely to be whether to keep the programme open ended, giving the ECB the flexibility to extend it once again, or to send a firm signal about the end, the sources said.

The exact amount of purchases is still up for discussion with views ranging between 25 billion euros and 40 billion euros a month, but the sources said there was consensus that they needed to be sharply reduced from their current 60 billion euro rate.

The ECB declined to comment. The sources said no formal proposals have been made. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)