Germany's inflation rate accelerated at the fastest pace in three and a half years in January, the country's official statistics office said Monday, amid a surge in energy prices.
Consumer prices in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rose at an annual 1.9% pace this month, Destatis said, up from 1.7% in December and the fastest rate since July 2013. The rate also falls largely in-line with the European Central Bank's definition of price stability of "just below 2%".
The figures are likely to fuel even more debate over the ECB's loose monetary policy and will likely elicit further calls from Germany's Bundesbank to withdraw some of the central bank's non-standard measures -- such as the -0.4% rate it applies to its deposit facility -- and unwind its €1.5 trillion quantitative easing program.
The European single currency, which had been trading at around 1.0641 against the U.S. dollar prior to the release, weakened to 106.28 immediately afterwards, although that move must be placed in the context of a stronger greenback, which has been rising most of the session against major global currencies.
Eurostat, the region's statistics office, will publish its flash estimate for currency area inflation Tuesday at 10:00 GMT, with analysts anticipating a reading of 1.7%. Annual Eurozone inflation was confirmed at a 3.5 year high of 1.1% last month thanks to a crude-oil induced spike in energy and a rise in food and alcohol prices. So-called core inflation, however, which strips out many of these volatile components, were largely stable at 0.9%.
However, ECB President Mario Draghi told reporters at his last press conference in Frankfurt on Jan. 19 that while he and his colleagues were prepared to do more, if needed, to bring inflation closer to its 'just below 2%' target, underlying consumer price pressures remained weak.
"Headline inflation has increased lately largely owing to base effects in energy prices. But underlying inflation pressures remain subdued," Draghi said. "The Governing Council will continue to look through changes in (harmonised Eurozone) inflation if judged to be transient and to have no implication for the medium-term outlook of price stability.
"A very substantial degree of monetary accommodation is needed for euro area inflation pressures to build up and support headline inflation in the medium term," Draghi continued. "If warranted to achieve its objective the Governing Council will act by using all the instruments available within its mandate."