Business

Eurozone inflation unexpectedly slows in July to 2.5%

Giant euro sign near the European Central Bank in Frankfurt
Image caption Some economists now think the ECB will leave interest rates unchanged at 1.5% for the rest of 2011

Eurozone inflation unexpectedly slowed in July to 2.5%, raising questions about when the European Central Bank (ECB) might raise interest rates again.

The preliminary estimate is down from 2.7% in June, according to the European Union statistics office Eurostat.

The July reading comes as a surprise after data earlier this week suggested inflation in Germany, Europe's largest economy, edged up to 2.4%.

The ECB has raised rates twice so far this year to try to control inflation.

The central bank wants to keep inflation below 2%.

'Compelling case'

No change had been expected in the inflation rate in July.

It is not clear what drove the decline, as Eurostat's initial estimate does not give a breakdown of the numbers - that is only released with the final estimate.

Economists said that the chance of the ECB raising rates from the current 1.5% before the end of the year now appeared less likely.

"While a further interest rate hike in the fourth quarter is clearly very possible, we suspect that slowing eurozone growth and recurrent sovereign debt problems will present an increasingly compelling case for the ECB to hold off from further monetary policy tightening this year," said Howard Archer from IHS Global Insight.

"We also anticipate that the case for further ECB action in 2011 will be diluted by mounting evidence that the second-round inflationary effects from higher energy and commodity prices are being contained.

"We currently expect the ECB to keep interest rates at 1.5% through the rest of 2011, then lift them gradually further to 2.25% by the end of 2012."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites