Inflation in the euro area moved above zero in November for the first time in five months, according to a preliminary report Monday, as higher energy prices pushed the index higher.
Consumer prices in the euro area rose 0.6 percent in November from the same month a year earlier, said Eurostat, the European Union’ s statistical agency. In October, the rate was minus 0.1 percent.
No further details were released; a fuller estimate is scheduled to be published on Dec. 16.
Economists said the increase was mainly a result of energy-price base effects as crude oil prices, in euro terms, were down sharply in November 2008 but have been rising since the end of the summer.
This trend, they said, will probably continue to push the rate higher in coming months even though, further out, inflation prospects for the region remained subdued.
Food inflation probably moved off its lows in October, but it was likely to have remained deep in negative territory, analysts added.
Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING, said he expected inflation to stay “ comfortably below” the European Central Bank’ s medium-term target of below but close to 2 percent.
That is also partly because the recovery in growth has been muted — and is expected to remain so — and because the amount of spare capacity in the economy should keep core inflation, excluding food and fuel, on a downward trend for some time. That should mitigate some of the upward pressure from energy prices.
The recent rise in the value of the euro against the dollar and many other currencies will also work against any sharp price increases in the euro area.
Muted gains in inflation would allow the central bank to retain its measured approach toward monetary policy, by continuing to slowly unwind its nonconventional support measures for lenders, while delaying an increase in interest rates, analysts said.
“ We think that headline inflation will rise further, to around 1 percent next month, and then settle at around those levels next year,” said Nick Kounis, chief European economist at Fortis Bank in Amsterdam.
Over all, the report “ confirms that the outlook is for low, below-target inflation rather than deflation, and supports the E.C. B.’ s steady-hand approach to monetary policy.”
The central bank will meet on Thursday in Frankfurt to discuss interest rates and other policy steps.