A sharp fall in the price of fuel and heating oil pulled down consumer prices in the eurozone as expected in February, but core inflation, which excludes the volatile energy component, edged higher, Eurostat data showed yesterday.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistical division, said consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro currency rose by 0.6% on a month-on-month basis, making for a 0.3% year-on-year fall, less sharp that a 0.6% year-on-year decline evident in January.
The data confirms an earlier Eurostat estimate and is in line with economists’ forecasts.
Energy prices rose by 1.6% on the month, but fell 7.9% year-on-year in February. Cheaper fuels for transport subtracted 0.64 percentage points from the overall end result and less expensive heating oil took off another 0.19 points.
Prices of unprocessed food, another volatile component of the consumer price index, rose 0.8% on the month to increase 0.4% year-on-year — the first annual rise since a 0.2% increase in November.
Without the energy and unprocessed food — a measure the European Central Bank calls core inflation — prices rose by 0.5% month-on-month for a 0.7% annual gain, accelerating from the 0.6% year-on-year rate in January.
The ECB wants to keep inflation below, but close to 2% in annual terms, over the medium term and started buying eurozone government bonds this month to inject cash into the economy and make prices rise at a faster pace.
Separately, Eurostat said employment in the eurozone, in the final quarter of 2014, rose by 0.1% against the previous three months and was 0.9% higher than in the same period of 2013.
According to Eurostat, February saw negative annual inflation rates in 20 EU member states.
The lowest annual rates were registered in Greece (-1.9%), Bulgaria (-1.7%), and Lithuania (-1.5%).
Positive annual rates were recorded in Sweden, Malta, Austria, Romania, and Italy. Compared with January, annual inflation fell in six member states, remained stable in four and rose in 17.
In terms of employment growth, Ireland (+0.6%), Slovakia, Latvia, and Spain recorded the highest increases in the final quarter of 2014, when compared to the preceding three-month period.
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