In a much-anticipated move on Wednesday, the U.S. central bank said it will buy $600 billion of long-term government bonds by the middle of 2011 to further drive down rates on mortgages and other debt.

The European Central Bank considers its monetary policy on Thursday in the wake of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to buy hundreds of billions more in Treasury Bonds in an effort to invigorate the economy - a course of action that the ECB has shown no inclination to follow.

The ECB appears set to leave its benchmark refinancing rate at 1 per cent for the 18th consecutive month at its regular meeting in Frankfurt.

It also is widely expected to continue getting markets used to the idea that its money won’t be as forthcoming as that of the Fed.

In a much-anticipated move on Wednesday, the U.S. central bank said it will buy $600 billion of long-term government bonds by the middle of 2011 to further drive down rates on mortgages and other debt.

That will be in addition to an expected $250 billion to $300 billion in purchases over the same period from reinvesting proceeds from its mortgage portfolio

While the U.S. economy has stuttered, the eurozone economy has outperformed expectations recently despite ongoing debt problems in a number of countries, like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Month by month, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has been noting the stronger than anticipated economic recovery.

Last month, he pointed to an ongoing decline in banks’ liquidity demands as a sign of the “process of normalization” - a suggestion that the bank is preparing to phase out more of its crisis lending programs, possibly as soon as December.

“The ECB is likely to reaffirm its intention to follow its own path,” Frederik Ducrozet, eurozone economist at Credit Agricole, said earlier this week.

“Decisions made by the Fed, the level of the euro or comments made by some hawkish members of the board should not prevent Trichet from keeping his previous commitment to a gradual exit from non-conventional measures.” Frederik Ducrozet added.

Trichet may find himself fielding questions Thursday about the level of the euro following the Fed’s announcement. Last month - as the euro crossed the $1.40 mark, more than 20 cents above its level at the height of this year’s euro-zone debt crisis - he voiced his concern about excess volatility in exchange rates.

The Bank of England also meets on Thursday.

Until last week, there were expectations that it would announce further measures to stimulate the British economy.

But news that the economy grew by a quarterly rate of 0.8 per cent in the third quarter - double expectations - means rate-setters will likely put any further policy easing on hold.