Rising eurozone inflation not enough to turn off QE taps

If confirmed, February will mark the first time in four years that inflation has risen to 2% across the eurozone.

Consumer prices were up 2.2 percent in February from a year ago, the Federal Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

Although inflation is now above its target rate, February's core inflation rate - which strips out the impact of energy and food prices - was unchanged at 0.9%.

Rising energy prices and higher food costs again were the main drivers behind the overall increase in February, a breakdown of the non-harmonized data showed. An updated ECB forecast scheduled to be released next week will give an indication of where the central bank thinks CPI is likely to end up at -with hawkish voices likely to be led by the Bundesbank given the divergence in inflationary pressures in the Eurozone.

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Producer prices - the amount that manufacturers charge - jumped to an annual 3.5 percent rate, from January's 1.6 percent, indicating further increases ahead.

Strategists said lower core inflation, a measure that excludes the effect of sharply rebounding energy prices over the past year, could temper the market reaction because it would signal that consumer price growth may not be durable over time. The ECB targets a rate of below but close to 2 percent for the 19-member euro zone as a whole. Eurostat Thursday said the jobless rate was unchanged at 9.6% in January, although 56,000 fewer people were without work.

As recently as May of last year, consumer prices were below their levels of a year earlier, and the 1% level was breached for the first time in more than three years as recently as December.

From April, the bank will buy only 60 billion euros (64 billion USA dollars) of bonds a month, rather than 80 billion euros. Those figures are due on Thursday.

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Inflation figures due out Thursday could intensify pressure on the European Central Bank to signal when it intends to start withdrawing the bond-purchase stimulus, known as quantitative easing.

Florian Hense at Berenberg said he expected the European Central Bank would only begin easing back on its more than one trillion euros stimulus programme early next year, with an interest rate hike only coming well into 2019.

Analysts said a pick-up in headline inflation had been expected after strong country data in recent days, limiting a bigger selloff in bond markets for now.

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