The Malta Independent 27 June 2016, Monday

Eurozone inflation rises to 15-month high in January

Friday, 29 January 2016, 11:25 Last update: about 6 months ago

Inflation appears to be picking up across the 19-country eurozone despite super-low oil prices.

Official figures released Friday by Eurostat show consumer prices were 0.4 percent higher in January than the year before, double December's rate. January's rate was the highest since October 2014, when it was also 0.4 percent, a development that may provide comfort to at least some policymakers at the European Central Bank.

The ECB is in the midst of a massive bond-buying program which is designed to get eurozone inflation back toward its target of just below 2 percent. Inflation has been below target since February 2013.

Once again, energy prices weighed the most on inflation, but the impact was less than it has been in previous months as prior-year declines start falling out of the annual comparison. In the year to January, energy prices were 5.3 percent lower than the year before. The last time the impact was smaller was in June 2015.

Other components of inflation rose, such as processed food, alcohol & tobacco, according to Eurostat.

Perhaps more encouraging for ECB rate-setters was the news that the core rate rose to 1 percent from 0.9 percent.

The increase in the core rate, which strips out volatile items like energy and food, suggests underlying price pressures are building as unemployment drops in many parts of the eurozone and amid burgeoning signs of a pick-up in wage increases.

The improvement in inflation figures contrasted with downbeat data from the ECB showing lending by commercial banks to businesses increased only 0.3 percent in December, after rising 0.7 percent in November. The ECB has cited improving bank lending statistics as proof its stimulus is working.

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