The European Central Bank has launched its 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) stimulus program by starting purchases of government bonds.

The chief monetary authority for the 19-countries that use the euro confirmed Monday that the purchases had begun. ECB President Mario Draghi had announced the start date last week, sending stocks higher and the euro lower.

The bonds are bought from banks and other financial institutions using newly printed money. The goal is to raise the rate of inflation, which the bank considers too low at negative 0.3 percent.

Low inflation is one sign of the economic weakness that has plagued the currency union as it struggles to get over its troubles over government debt. The bond purchases are to run through at least September 2016.