The size of the European Central Bank's dormant government bond purchase programme remained at €205.5 billion last week as no bonds matured, the ECB said.

The ECB terminated its Securities Markets Programme in September to replace it with a new, but yet to be used, plan called Outright Monetary Transactions.

However, as the ECB has said it will keep the bonds acquired through the SMP until maturity, it will take years until the programme will cease to exist.

The ECB revealed last month for the first time the contents of its SMP portfolio.

This showed that it had €99 billion of Italian bonds, €44 billion of Spanish, €31 billion of Greek, €22 billion of Portuguese and €14 billion of Irish government debt at the end of last year.

If it ends up using the OMT, the ECB hopes it will be more effective in lowering the borrowing costs of struggling euro zone countries because they must sign themselves up to an official rescue programme to qualify for the assistance.

The ECB will take an amount equivalent to the current SMP holdings as weekly deposits from banks tomorrow to counterbalance the buys and neutralise any threat of them fuelling inflation.