The European Central Bank is ready to extend its "quantitative easing" programme if necessary, minutes from a September governing council meeting showed today. 

The minutes countered speculation that the ECB would soon cut down on bond-buying.

Governing council members shared the view that "financing conditions had to remain supportive to underpin the recovery in growth and inflation", the minutes read. 

"It was therefore of crucial importance to preserve the very substantial degree of monetary support," they said. 

The language from the August meeting contrasted with a media report this week that policymakers were considering "tapering" - or gradually reducing to zero - the ECB's €80 billion a month government and corporate bond purchasing-programme.

The programme is set to expire in March 2017. 

Given the continuing, if sluggish, recovery of the euro zone and the possibility of running up against limits in the number of bonds eligible for the ECB to buy, observers have suspected that an end to QE could be on the horizon. 

The ECB limits its purchases of any one country's bonds under rules banning "monetary financing" of government spending with printed money. 

It also buys no bonds with yields lower than the deposit rate of interest banks pay to park cash with it overnight - currently -0.4%. 

The ECB therefore has a choice between winding down its bond-buying programme or loosening its rules and giving itself access to a bigger pool.

But without the QE programme - backed by historically low interest rates and a programme of cheap loans to banks designed to boost lending to businesses and households - growth could weaken, hindering inflation from reaching the ECB's mandated target of close to but just below 2%. 

The policymakers said there should be "no doubt" about the bank's determination "to adopt further measures, if needed, to fulfil its price stability objective," the minutes read. 

Against the background of continuing weak inflation and the ECB's saying that it would explore extending QE, analysts still expect the ECB to announce a six-month extension at its December policy meeting.