Pedestrians walk past the euro sign sculpture as it stands outside the former European Central Bank. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Euro-Area Inflation Revised Lower as ECB Debates Policy Move

(Bloomberg) -- Euro-area inflation accelerated less than initially estimated last month, a setback for European Central Bank policy makers as they consider winding down unprecedented stimulus.

Consumer prices in the 19-country bloc rose just 1.3 percent in March from a year earlier, according the European Union’s statistical office. While that’s up from 1.1 percent the previous month, the reading falls short of a 1.4 percent initial estimate.

Euro-Area Inflation Revised Lower as ECB Debates Policy Move

Core inflation, which strips out volatile components such as food and fuel, held at 1 percent for a third month. Bloomberg Economics noted that its supercore measure -- which tracks domestically generated pressure -- picked up to 1.2 percent from 1.1 percent. That’s the highest in four years.

What Our Economists Say:

Underlying inflation accelerated slightly in April. That’s good news for the European Central Bank. While the move is too small for it to significantly shift the outlook for monetary policy, it will allow the Governing Council to continue moving toward the exit from its quantitative easing program.

--David Powell, Jamie Murray, Bloomberg Economics

For more, see our Euro-Area React

A recent slowdown in economic data hasn’t yet eroded confidence among ECB officials, who will next set policy on April 26, that inflation will return gradually to their goal of close to but below 2 percent. At the same time, there are different views among rate setters about when and how to scale back an asset-purchase program introduced more than three years ago to stoke price pressures.

While Germany’s Jens Weidmann and Estonia’s Ardo Hansson have expressed their preference for a faster exit, ECB Executive Board member Peter Praet is among those more cautious. He argued this week that an ample degree of stimulus remains necessary, given “subdued” inflation developments. Policy makers must be “patient, persistent and prudent,” he also said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.