BUSINESS

Eurozone inflation steady at 0.8 pct in January, Greek deflation at 1.4 pct

Eurozone inflation held steady at 0.8 percent in January from the same figure in December, official data showed on Thursday, easing concerns of deflationary pressure on growth.

A second estimate from the Eurostat statistics office showed year-on-year inflation in the 18-nation eurozone dropping from 2.0 percent in January 2013 after falling steadily in recent months.

In the 28-nation European Union, inflation fell to 0.9 percent against 1.0 percent in December and year-on-year decreased 2.1 percent.

The data will ease pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) over concerns about deflation and the need for a further easing of monetary policy.

However Eurostat showed annual negative rates in Cyprus (-1.6 percent), Greece (-1.4 percent) and in Bulgaria (-1.3 percent).

The highest rates were in Britain and in Finland, which each saw a 1.9-percent rise.

Tobacco registered the highest rise in January at 0.8 percent.

The figures came amid fears that disinflation could harm a growing but lacklustre recovery in the eurozone.

Tough EU government austerity policies to combat the debt crisis have sucked demand out of the economy, pushing inflation way below the ECB's target of close to 2.0 percent.

Deflation -- falling prices in real terms -- can encourage consumers to put off buying goods in the expectation that if they wait, they will become cheaper.

That in turn weakens the economy as companies reduce output accordingly, hitting employment and demand, thereby setting off a downward spiral.

[AFP]

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