In January, price increases in the eurozone remained well below the rate desired by the European Central Bank. The timid inflation rate for the month points to a lackluster recovery in the recession-hit currency area.
Annual inflation in the 18-nation eurozone remained tame in January, recording 0.8 percent higher than in the previous month of December, according to Monday.
In the wider 28-nation European Union, inflation fell to 0.9 percent against 1 percent at the end of last year, Eurostat said.
Compared with January 2013, however, the rates for both areas were significantly lower, coming down from 2 percent and 2.1 percent annual inflation respectively a year ago.
The sharp decline in inflation over the year has fuelled fears of deflation in Europe. Deflation denotes a downward spiral of falling prices, restrained consumer spending, less investments and jobs, and subsequently dropping growth. The European Central Bank (ECB) considers an annual inflation rate of around 2 percent as normal for a growing economy.
In the eurozone, however, crisis-hit member states Cyprus and Greece already logged falling prices for January, down 1.6 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. In the wider EU, Bulgaria posted deflation of minus 1.3 percent.
The highest rates were in Britain and in Finland, which each saw 1.9 percent higher prices.
The latest Eurostat inflation data raises concern about the recent economic recovery failing to gain traction on the continent. In addition, it puts more pressure on the ECB to help spur growth with more monetary easing, after it had already cut its key interest rate to a historic low of 0.25 percent at the end of last year.
uhe/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)