* Euro zone inflation confirmed at 0.5 pct yr/yr
* Inflation excl. food, energy 0.9 pct vs 0.8 pct expected
* Analysts expect inflation to rise in April
(Adds details on core inflation, analyst comment)
BRUSSELS, April 16 A drop in March euro zone
inflation to its lowest level since November 2009 was confirmed
on Wednesday, keeping pressure on the European Central Bank to
intervene if prices do not rebound.
The year-on-year inflation rate in the 18 countries sharing
the euro was 0.5 percent in March, down from 0.7 percent in
February, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said.
It was the sixth straight month that inflation remained in
what ECB President Mario Draghi called a "danger zone" of below
Core inflation, excluding energy, food, alcohol and tobacco
dropped to 0.7 from 1.0 percent. Excluding unprocessed food and
energy, inflation was 0.9 percent, more than the 0.8 percent
economists had forecast but still less than February's reading
of 1.1 percent.
Analysts believe inflation will pick up in April because
travel prices typically rise over Easter, and Easter comes later
this year. It came at the end of March in 2013.
"In April we expect a rebound in core inflation, 0.9
percent, as some of the Easter-related seasonal price increases
are likely to come with a month's delay," said economist Gizem
Kara at BNP Paribas.
In March, the biggest rise in prices was for tobacco,
restaurants and bars as well as milk, cheese and eggs. Prices
fell for heating oil, telecommunications and fuel.
Disparity across the euro zone was stark. Greece (-1.5 pct)
and Cyprus (-0.9 pct) saw prices fall from last year. Inflation
rates in Austria (+1.4 pct), Malta (+1.4 pct) and Germany (+0.9
pct) were nearer the ECB's target of close to but less than 2
Inflation has now been in the ECB's "danger zone" of less
than 1 percent for six consecutive months, fuelling speculation
that the ECB will need to take further action. However,
economists say that inflation may have bottomed out in March.
"Apart from the later Easter effect likely to push up
inflation in April, the year-on-year drop in energy prices may
well have peaked and food prices could start to edge back up,"
said economist Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight.
ECB policy makers said the bank stood ready to deploy
unconventional measures to ensure that inflation did not stay
low for too long.
ECB's President Mario Draghi expressed concerns at the
euro's strength on Saturday in Washington, trying to talk down
the currency, which influences domestic prices.
The strength of the single currency against the dollar makes
imports cheaper and pushes down the prices Europeans pay for
goods and services.
While this can give households more purchasing power in the
short run, the ECB wants to avoid a drop in inflation
For March inflation TABLE please see ]
Euro zone inflation rate vs target and ECB refinancing rate
For more on economic indicators please see: here
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Martin Santa; Editing by