The European Central Bank spent less money trying to keep down the borrowing costs of struggling countries like Italy and Spain last week.
Figures released Monday showed that bond purchases dropped to euro9.79 billion, down from euro14 billion invested a week earlier.
The ECB restarted its controversial bond-buying program in August as investors _ worried about the debt of Italy and Spain _ drove up the two countries' borrowing costs. The purchases are designed to prop up bond prices, and keep down interest rates, during a market sell-off.
But after initially falling below 5 percent, the interest rate on Italian 10-year bonds is back up at 5.59 percent, having risen 0.14 percentage point Monday, while the Spanish equivalent was yielding 5.31 percent, up 0.03 percentage point on the day.
ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has made it clear that the bank's bond purchases are only a temporary measure until eurozone governments have implemented changes to their bailout fund that would allow it to take over that role.
However, the implementation process is proving slow, with several national parliaments voicing opposition to the fund's new powers. Economists _ and a growing number of politicians _ have also warned that the fund is not big enough to effectively take over from the Frankfurt-based ECB.
In contrast to the much smaller economies of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which have already received rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, Italy and Spain are regarded as too big to be bailed out, making the bond purchases an important preventive tool.