Euro area consumer prices recovered in October from a brief spell of sub-zero inflation in the previous month, data released Friday by the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat showed. Meanwhile, unemployment in the 19 countries that share the euro fell to 10.8 percent in September, from 10.9 percent the month before, beating economists’ forecasts of an 11 percent reading.
Falling oil prices were believed to be a key factor behind the low inflation rate. And as energy prices continue to drop, inflation in the region -- which now stands at zero -- will continue to be under pressure. Fears of continued low inflation could push the European Central Bank to expand its stimulus package and ease monetary policy further.
In a bid to bring consumer prices closer to the 2 percent goal and to boost the bloc’s economy, the ECB in March embarked on a 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) asset-purchase program. Although the bond purchases are slated to run at least through September 2016, the central bank has, in recent weeks, come under increasing pressure to expand the program to push up sluggish inflation.
“It’s an important number, given that Mr. Draghi indicated that both headline and medium-term expectations data are going to be key for the outcome of the next meeting,” Frederic Pretet, inflation and rates strategist at Scotiabank Europe Plc in Paris, told Bloomberg. “Any stronger-than-expected inflation data reduces -- of course -- the possibility of seeing a cut in the deposit rate.”
The unemployment rate in the 19-nation euro area, meanwhile, was 10.8 percent in September, down from 11.5 percent last September. This is the lowest unemployment rate recorded in the euro area since January 2012. Despite falling joblessness, weak prices can be perceived as a sign of less than robust demand in the economies of the region.
Unemployment rates recorded last month also witnessed stark regional differences -- varying from 4.5 percent in Germany to 21.6 percent in Spain -- underlining the disparities in the bloc's economies.
All eyes now turn to the ECB's next governing council meeting in December, when the central bank is now widely expected to announce further stimulus measures.