The flash estimate of euro zone CPI inflation for September surprised friends and foes, probably including the ECB. CPI inflation accelerated from 2.5% Y/Y to 3.0% Y/Y, the highest level in almost three years, while the consensus was looking for an unchanged figure. This looks like an exceptional figure, but the details should provide us with more information. The Italian data provide us already some indication. In Italy, CPI inflation rose by 1.9% M/M to an annual level of 3.5% Y/Y (from 2.3% Y/Y). Part of the increase in the Italian CPI might be due to the VAT increase, but also the changes to the measurement methodology of seasonal goods have influenced the data. This changed methodology depressed inflation over the previous months, thus understating the pace of inflation. Apart from this short-term volatility, the inflation level is probably higher than we had thought over the previous months. This outcome is an unpleasant surprise for the ECB as they softened their assessment on inflation last month to “stable”. Expectations had grown last week that the ECB would cut rates soon, but this outcome complicates the case for rate cuts in the coming months.
In August, the euro zone unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 10%, for a fourth consecutive month, in line with expectations. More surprising was the decline in the number of people unemployed. Compared with July, the number of people unemployed fell by 38 000 in the euro area to a total level of 15.739 million. After four consecutive increases, the number of people unemployed dropped again in August, which is a welcome sign after the bad news of recent, but it is unlikely to sustain in the coming months. National details show that the unemployment rate dropped in Belgium and Italy, while the unemployment rate rose in Spain, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In Germany and Austria, the unemployment rate stayed unchanged.