FRANKFURT, July 21 (Reuters) - European Central Bank policymakers see October as the most likely date to decide on the future of the ECB's asset buys and consider December, an option flagged by staff, as too late, four sources with direct knowledge of the discussion said.
Few key data points will become available before the September 7 meeting and policymakers may also be nervous about making key changes before elections in Germany, the biggest critic of the ECB's 2.3 trillion euro quantitative easing (QE), the sources told Reuters.
"All the signs are pointing to October," on of the sources said. "There will be little to decide on in September... and December is just too far out."
The ECB declined to comment. On Thursday, ECB President Mario Draghi said that a decision would come in the autumn and that policymakers deliberately kept the date open.
Facing weak inflation and accelerating growth, the ECB needs to resolve a dilemma in the coming months as its 60 billion euro per month asset buys are set to run only until the end of the year.
Indeed, Draghi has already noted that improving growth would by itself support lending, meaning the ECB could curb its own stimulus and still keep the level of accommodation unchanged.
That has fuelled expectation for an imminent decision and analysts prior to Thursday's meeting had honed in on September as the most likely date.
"It wouldn’t be smart to expect too much in September," another source added. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, Francesco Canepa and Frank Siebelt Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)