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Nov 28, 5:19 AM EST

Eurozone inflation dips again as energy costs tank


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LONDON (AP) -- A sharp fall in energy costs as a result of dramatic declines in oil markets has pushed inflation across the 18-country eurozone down to 0.3 percent in the year to November, official figures showed Friday.

Preliminary numbers from the European Union's statistics agency, Eurostat, show that the fall in eurozone consumer price inflation from the previous month's 0.4 percent was largely due to a 2.5 percent decline in energy costs.

In recent months, oil prices have taken a battering amid a return of sustained production in countries like Iraq and Libya, the increase in shale gas output, particularly in the U.S., as well as signs of a slowdown in many leading economies, notably China and Europe. On Thursday, oil prices fell to fresh four year lows after OPEC decided to keep oil production levels unchanged.

November's fall takes inflation further away from the European Central Bank's target to keep price rises just below 2 percent. It's likely to maintain pressure on policymakers to launch in the coming months a monetary stimulus similar to the one the Federal Reserve recently brought to an end.

However, few economists that the ECB will back so-called quantitative easing at next week's monthly policy meeting. This week, the ECB's vice president, Vitor Constancio, indicated that it's something that the 24-member governing council will look at in the first quarter of next year.

"Quantitative easing is the only remaining option for the eurozone to break free from this permanent state of malaise," said Dennis de Jong, managing director at UFX.com.

Separately, Eurostat also said unemployment was steady in October at 11.5 percent.

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