Inflation in the eurozone has rebounded somewhat, moving closer to positive territory. But the rise in consumer prices is still far from the level found best for monetary stability by the European Central Bank.
The fall in consumer prices across the 19-member euro area eased in February, assuaging deflation worries, the bloc's statistics office, Eurostat, reported Monday.
Although inflation slipped by 0.3 percent, the decrease in prices was half the 0.6 percent of the previous month.
Nonetheless, the eurozone has now suffered three consecutive monthly declines, which has had many economists speak of deflation by definition.
ECB target not in sight
EU officials have hastened to point out that the eurozone is not in deflation, arguing that the drop in consumer prices has been driven by external factors such developments on the oil and food markets rather than an across-the-board drop in price levels.
Be that as it may, inflation in the bloc is far from the rate recommended by the European Central Bank, which aims for a rise in consumer prices by just under 2 percent.
A separate release by Eurostat on Monday said the eurozone's jobless rate showed further signs of improvement, hitting its lowest level since April 2012.
Unemployment dropped to 11.2 percent in January from 11.3 percent in December. Jobless queues were down by 140,000, but over 18 million people were still out of work, the stats office reported.
hg/sgb (dpa, AFP, AP)