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“If the current positive market mood continues, the ECB may end up having to buy nothing,” said Marco Valli, an analyst at UniCredit bank in Milan.

Other analysts cautioned that while the ECB plan would provide short-term relief to European countries and financial markets, it doesn’t address underlying economic weakness across the region, which could persist for years.

Put simply, buying government bonds does not stimulate growth, which has been hurt in Spain, Italy and other countries, in part, by the need to rein in government spending.

Six countries in the eurozone are in recession — Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal — and unemployment across the region is 11.3 percent.

The ECB revised lower its economic forecast for the 17-nation eurozone economy on Thursday, saying it would shrink between 0.2 percent and 0.6 percent in 2012. The bank left its benchmark refinancing rate unchanged at 0.75 percent, a record low.

Here are some of the details of the ECB’s bond-buying plan:

• To trigger ECB bond-buying, a country must first ask its euro partners to use one of two bailout funds to buy their bonds at auction. The ECB would then buy bonds with remaining maturities of one to three years on secondary markets until it was satisfied that their interest rate had fallen to a reasonable level.

• The ECB would reveal the amount of bonds it has purchased on a weekly basis. It would reveal their average maturity and the countries that issued them on a monthly basis.

• The ECB will have the same status as private creditors holding bonds in a country. This pledge is intended to reassure private bond investors, who would otherwise worry about being the first to take any losses.

• For each euro the ECB spends on bond-buying, the bank plans to withdraw an equivalent amount from the financial system, by taking deposits or selling notes. This is meant to address concerns that by pumping money into the financial system the ECB could incite inflation.