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Eurozone inflation stays weak at 0.5% in June

Inflation across the 18-nation eurozone was steady in June at 0.5 per cent, but remained far below target against a background of concern about deflation, official data showed on Monday.

BRUSSELS: Inflation across the 18-nation eurozone was steady in June at 0.5 per cent, but remained far below target against a background of concern about deflation, official data showed on Monday.

Deflation is such a threat that the European Central Bank has moved into negative interest rates to get cash flowing, and authorities are closely watching inflation rates in the hope that it will edge up towards the bank's target of nearly 2.0 per cent.

The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said in a first estimate that inflation was 0.5 per cent in June -- the same level as in May.

This means that inflation is at the lowest level since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 nearly froze the market on which banks lend to each other and caused recession in several advanced economies.

Inflation has been far below the ECB's target of just under 2.0 per cent, threatening its statutory obligation to ensure price stability.

That is why the ECB has lowered its benchmark refinancing rate to 0.15 per cent, and moved the deposit rate at which it pays banks for depositing money with it at minus 0.10 per cent, meaning the banks are being charged if they park money instead of using it.

When inflation rises above 2.0 per cent in advanced economies, business and households begin to anticipate further rises, stoking so-called second-round inflation.

But when inflation is much below 1.0 per cent for a long time, people delay purchases and investment in the belief that prices will fall further. That cuts demand, can cause recession, reduces demand and growth and increases unemployment in a vicious spiral which is difficult for central banks to reverse.

- Weak outlook -

At the beginning of June, the ECB lowered its forecasts for inflation in the eurozone up to 2016, saying it would be 0.7 per cent this year, 1.1 per cent next year and 1.4 per cent in 2016.

In March, it was forecasting 1.0 per cent this year then 1.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent.

The president of the ECB Mario Draghi said at a press conference after the last meeting of the bank on June 5 that inflation would remain weak in coming months.

The latest data showed that in June, the prices for services in the eurozone rose by 1.3 per cent after 1.1 per cent in May.

Prices for energy rose by 0.1 per cent from zero increase in May. prices for food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco fell by 0.2 per cent after an increase of 0.1 per cent.

Analysts are divided over the dangers of inflation, with some saying that the eurozone is not seriously at risk, while others warn that with inflation running so low, shocks to economies or in the international economic climate could dent confidence enough to tip the single currency area into deflation.

In any case, some analysts say, the ECB may eventually have to begin a programme of quantitative easing, meaning the purchasing of government debt already issued and traded on the market, as a means of injecting extra cash into the financial system to push up prices.

That would also tend to weaken the euro, which would push up the prices of imported goods such as oil.

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