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European Central Bank cuts benchmark rate to record low

A man passed a homeless person in Milan. The Italian government has struggled to cut the nation’s debt.
A man passed a homeless person in Milan. The Italian government has struggled to cut the nation’s debt. Luca Bruno/Associated Press

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The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low Thursday but remained unwilling to deploy more powerful weapons that many economists say are needed to jolt the Continent out of recession.

The central bank, meeting in Bratislava, trimmed its main rate to 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent. The move was seen by many as mostly symbolic, to avoid the impression that the bank and its president, Mario Draghi, were sitting on their hands as recession spread across the eurozone.

Draghi promised to continue letting banks borrow as much as they wanted at the benchmark rate for ‘‘as long as needed,’’ and at least until mid-2014. That was a longer time commitment than the ECB has offered in the past.

He also said the bank was exploring ways to increase the supply of credit by reviving the moribund market in Europe for asset-backed securities.

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