Inflation at 4.1 percent

Headline inflation eased to 4.1 percent year-on-year in March from 4.3 percent in the previous month, as lower energy prices partially offset the jump in fresh produce prices, the National Statistics Service said yesterday. Annual EU-harmonized inflation fell to 3.9 percent from 4.2 percent. Petrol prices were down by 0.8 percent month-on-month in March. Vegetables, however, gained 10.5 percent, indicating that the market has yet to recover from a batch of bad weather early this year. Paul Mylonas, director of strategic planning at the National Bank, said the decline in energy prices was «a positive surprise.» «Surprisingly, they fed through into the consumer price index,» he said. Oil prices had soared in the runup to the war in Iraq but, on Monday, they fell to near five-month low points after US forces entered Baghdad. The climbdown in March inflation prompted Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to issue an optimistic outlook for the coming months. «With better weather conditions expected and the fall in global oil prices starting to make itself felt, inflation in the coming months should be limited more substantially compared with March,» he said. Concurring with the view, Eurobank economist Platon Monokroussos predicted consumer prices easing to 3.5 percent in the next two months on the back of favorable base effects. Mylonas said cheaper energy and fresh produce are expected to provide a downward impetus in the coming months. A downside risk, however, lies in consumers’ high expectations of inflation as evidenced in the European Commission’s latest survey, said Monokroussos. «If this translates into real pressure, there could be a problem,» he said.