Brussels: Eurozone inflation left negative territory in June, statistics showed Thursday, but economic uncertainty from Brexit sparked concerns that damaging deflation could return to Europe.
The rise in consumer prices is welcome news after months of an unprecedented stimulus programme by the European Central Bank to jumpstart sluggish growth and low prices in the eurozone.
Consumer prices in June rose a slight 0.1 percent after slipping 0.1 percent in May, the EU`s Eurostat statistics agency said. This was higher than the zero percent forecast by analysts surveyed by data provider Factset.
"Amid the heightened uncertainties triggered by the Brexit vote, some cheery news for the ECB as the eurozone exited deflation in June," said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.
Energy prices again drove consumer prices lower, dropping by 6.5 percent, but this was far less than the negative 8.5 percent a month earlier.
Faced with low prices, the European Central Bank has embarked on a series of unprecedented stimulus programmes in a desperate battle to kick-start sluggish growth and inflation in the eurozone.
Slow eurozone growth has seen inflation slide in and out of negative territory, threatening a dangerous downward spiral of falling prices and wages. The ECB aims to get inflation back to two percent or just below, a level it deems healthy for growth.
But analysts warned that knock-on effects from the shock decision by voters in Britain to leave the EU could reverse any progress made towards boosting inflation and growth.
At an EU summit on Tuesday, ECB head Mario Draghi warned leaders that the fallout from Brexit could cost the eurozone up to 0.5 percent in GDP growth over the next three years.
"Uncertainty over the effects of Brexit could add to downward pressure on wage growth and increase firms` reluctance to raise their prices in the coming months," said Jennifer McKeown, Senior European Economist at Capital Economics.
The Frankfurt-based central bank this month took the controversial step of buying corporate bonds, its latest weapon in the fight against deflation that also includes negative interest rates for banks.
Critics in powerful Germany however charge that the ECB is overstepping its mandate by lavishing billions on corporate giants and say it could be distorting markets and creating bubbles.
The ECB has already made unprecedented amounts of ultra-cheap loans available to banks on condition they pass it on as credit for businesses and households.
The ECB has also embarked on a major asset purchase programme known as quantitative easing, or QE.