Prices in the 17 countries that use the euro did not rise as much as first estimated during January but still increased at their highest rate in over two years, official figures showed Monday.
Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said consumer prices in the eurozone rose 2.3 percent in the year to January. That's marginally down on the 2.4 percent first predicted but still means that inflation is running at a 27-month high.
A further insight will emerge Tuesday when Eurostat publishes its first estimate for inflation in February. The current expectation in the markets is that inflation will spike up further to 2.5 percent.
The numbers come ahead of Thursday's monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank. Though the bank is expected to keep its main interest rate unchanged at 1 percent, rate-setters are getting increasingly concerned that inflation is running higher than its target of "close to but below 2 percent."
Most analysts think that ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet will refrain from ratcheting up his anti-inflation rhetoric, but rather say that the bank continues to monitor inflationary pressures very carefully.
Silvio Peruzzo, an analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland, said that in the past a rate hike would be imminent if Trichet used the terms "strong vigilance or "heightened alertness" when describing his worries over inflation. Instead he is more likely to argue this week that much of the current spike in prices is due to temporary food and energy price increases.
"We do not expect the ECB to pursue all the steps that, in our view, that would set the ground for a rate hike in the second quarter, and we stick to our call in place since September last year of a first rate hike in the third quarter, Peruzzo said.