BRUSSELS, March 31 Euro zone inflation in March
was at the its lowest level since November 2009, a shock drop
that was below forecasts and raises expectations for the
European Central Bank to take radical action to stop deflation
in the currency bloc.
Annual consumer inflation in the 18 countries sharing the
euro was 0.5 percent in March, with the pace of price rises
cooling from February's 0.7 percent reading, the EU's statistics
office Eurostat said on Monday.
Economists polled by Reuters predicted a 0.6 percent figure,
which in itself was worrying for an economy that is barely
pulling out of its longest recession after a crisis that nearly
broke up the currency area.
The reading is also the sixth straight month of inflation in
the ECB's "danger zone" of below 1 percent.
The ECB's Governing Council meets on Thursday and the
inflation data could push economists to rethink their forecasts
that the bank will hold interest rates.
The ECB left interest rates on hold and took no new measures
to bolster the fragile recovery at its last monthly meeting. Its
president, Mario Draghi, suggested then that the bank would
either do nothing or take bold action should the outlook
(Reporting by Robin Emmott)