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ECB policymakers see July hike as still possible - sources

FILE PHOTO: ECB President Christine Lagarde holds news conference following Governing Council's monetary meeting, in Frankfurt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank could still raise its interest rates in July but policymakers agreed at a meeting on Thursday to keep their options open for now as the economic outlook is clouded by the Ukraine war, two sources told Reuters.

The sources close to the matter said policymakers were unanimous in backing Thursday's policy message, which says the ECB would end its bond-buying programme in the third quarter of the year and raise rates "some time" after that.

The euro zone's rate-setters differed, however, on some of the risks, such as that long-term inflation expectations veer off the ECB's 2% target.

An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

ECB President Christine Lagarde said at a news conference that a de-anchoring of inflation expectations was the last thing the central bank wanted.

She added a rate hike, which was not discussed at Thursday's meeting, could come "a week" or several months after the Asset Purchase Programme ends.

A closely watched market gauge of long-term euro zone inflation expectations was close to 2.4% on Thursday.

(Reporting By Francesco Canepa, Frank Siebelt and Balazs Koranyi)