Eurozone March inflation at 3.6 percent

BRUSSELS, April 16, 2008 (AFP) – Inflation in the 15 nations sharing the euro reached a record 3.6 percent in March, the European Union’s Eurostat data agency said Wednesday, revising up a first estimate of 3.5 percent. The rate, the highest since the launch of the single European currency in 1999, exceeded economist forecasts for 3.5 percent.

Record oil and food prices have fuelled a recent spike in inflation which reached 3.3 percent in February in the eurozone. In March 2007, inflation stood at 1.9 percent.

The March rate brings eurozone inflation even further out of the European Central Bank’s comfort zone, which it defines as annual consumer price growth of close to but less than 2.0 percent.

The new record also further complicates the European Central Bank’s task of keeping inflation under control in the face of an increasingly downbeat outlook for the eurozone economy.

“The final eurozone consumer price inflation will go down like a lead balloon at the ECB and undermines already limited hopes of an interest rate cut in the near term,” economist Howard Archer said at consultants Global Insight.

While headline inflation soared to a new high, underlying price growth, which excludes the impac