Inflation in the euro zone jumped more than expected in January. Consumer prices in the 17 countries using the euro rose 2.4 percent year-on-year in January after a 2.2 percent rise in December.
That put it above the European Central Bank’s target of below, but close to two percent, which is likely to fuel market speculation the ECB might have to raise interest rates sooner than thought.
No monthly figure or breakdown of the year-on-year estimate was available from European Union’s statistics office Eurostat, but economists have blamed higher inflation mainly on more expensive energy and food.
The ECB has said it expected prices to grow faster than its target in the coming months, peaking at 2.4 percent in March and then subside again.
European Central Bank Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said early last week he did not expect a decision to raise interest rates in the first half of the year.
Many economists expect the ECB would only raise interest rates from the current record low of one percent in late 2011, and some even say a rate rise may happen only in early 2012.