Higher eurozone inflation raises prospect of tighter monetary policy

Germany, the biggest of the eurozone economies, has already announced that its inflation rate rose to 2.2 percent from 1.9 percent. The bank is scheduled to meet next week for its latest policy meeting.

"Calls from Germany on the European Central Bank to change its monetary policy are mistaken and premature", the head of the DIW economic research institute Marcel Fratzscher said.

Inflation is a key indicator of underlying consumer demand and the European Central Bank adopted its just under 2.0 percent target with the aim of ensuring a modest but sustained increased in prices, the sign of a healthy economy.

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Energy price increases had the biggest upside impact, Eurostat tables indicate, rising and estimated 9.2% from previous year. Core inflation, that excludes the effect of more volatile factors, stood at 0.9% in February, the same level of the past three months, and has been stagnant for some time.

"It's high time for the European Central Bank to move away from its ultra-loose monetary policy", Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper.

She said the firm expects the bank will keep its commitment to its continuing its bond buying programme until the end of the year, and longer if necessary. It will instead continue the QE program until the end of 2017.

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Food, alcohol and tobacco prices rose at the second fast rate over the month (2.5% compared with 1.8% in January), followed by services and non-industrial goods.

IHS Markit said Eurozone inflation is unlikely to rise much further from two per cent, though it may edge up in the short term. The ECB will release its new projections next week: in December it forecast inflation at 1.3% in 2017 and at 1.8% in 2018. Eurostat Thursday said the jobless rate was unchanged at 9.6% in January, although 56,000 fewer people were without work.

Even in Germany, where the labor market has been strong and unemployment is at record lows, below 6%, there are scarce signs of higher wages.

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"Although inflation has reached the ECB's target, core inflation remains subdued and upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany could derail business confidence and thereby hinder economic activity", said Oliver Kolodseike, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research in London.


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