Yields on benchmark Italian bonds dipped lower Monday as the European Central Bank purchased more debt to assist debt-burdened countries. Yields dropped to 6.63 percent, The Daily Telegraph reported. News agencies reported the ECB increased bond purchases to $4.78 billion last week from $1.39 billion in the previous week. Credit rating service Standard & Poor\'s Inc. followed up last week\'s downgrade of nine Euro-area governments by doing the same Monday to Europe\'s bailout fund. The downward move from AAA status to AA+ came as no surprise, CNN Money reported. S&P said the bailout fund\'s status is fluid, depending on how European officials react to Monday\'s action. \"The outlook is developing, which reflects that we could raise the EFSF\'s long-term rating to AAA if we see that additional credit enhancements are put in place, but also the likelihood that we could lower the rating further if we conclude that the creditworthiness of the EFSF\'s members will likely be further reduced over the next two years,\" S&P said in a statement. S&P had rattled markets Friday when it lowered the ratings for the nine European countries, including France, which lost its pristine AAA rating, and Italy, which was lowered by two notches. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said Monday the European Union was to blame, not the Italian government. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said Germany would not increase its contribution to the European Financial Stability Fund, set up to help struggling nations. Moody\'s Credit Rating Service said it would continue to review French finances with a potential downgrade in March, The Guardian reported. Demand was strong Monday for a bond auction in France, providing some encouragement for investors. The auction of $10.7 billion in short-term notes was a sellout. Although not as convincing as an auction of benchmark, 10-year bonds, analyst said the auction proved S&P\'s downgrade was not devastating. \"It is doubtful though that the downgrading of sovereign debt for France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia and Slovenia will have more than a passing influence on bond yields and stress in bank funding markets,\" said Mike Lenhoff, chief strategist at the financial planning firm Brewin Dolphin. Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said discussions on a voluntary reduction of the value of Greece\'s debt had been halted close to an agreement, to give investors time for reflection. Talks were not in jeopardy of being derailed, he said.