European inflation unexpectedly accelerated to the fastest in almost three years in September, complicating the European Central Bank’s task as it fights the region’s worsening sovereign-debt crisis.
The euro-area inflation rate jumped to 3 percent this month from 2.5 percent in August, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today in an initial estimate. That’s the biggest annual increase in consumer prices since October 2008. Economists had projected inflation to hold at 2.5 percent, according to the median of 38 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.Faster inflation increases pressure on an economy already hurt by tougher austerity measures and waning investor confidence as governments combat the fiscal crisis. European economic confidence slumped more than economists forecast in September, partly as households grew more pessimistic. Commerzbank AG said today that the region “looks set to slip into a recession.”“It’s more of a technical thing than a fundamental change,” said Laurent Bilke, global head of inflation strategy at Nomura International Plc in London, which was the only bank to forecast the right inflation rate in the Bloomberg survey. “The ECB is not going to cut in October and obviously strong inflation doesn’t give them much room for maneuver on that side. They will probably need a few more months of negative economic news to get there, maybe in November or December.”.....ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, who will retire at the end of October, said on Sept. 8 that inflation rates are “likely to stay clearly above” 2 percent in the coming months before falling below the central bank’s ceiling in 2012. This assessment is based on “moderate economic growth,” he said. Trichet will be succeeded by Italy’s Mario Draghi......“Next year, inflationary pressures are projected to abate,” ECB council member Erkki Liikanen said in a speech posted on the Bank of Finland’s website on Sept. 27. “Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of monetary policy to ensure that this moderation will take place.”
Members of the central bank and other policy markers are hoping that the "cure for higher inflation is higher inflation." Put another way, higher prices decrease demand, thereby lowering price pressure. Supporting this is the strengthening dollar, which will lower the price of commodities, all of which are priced in dollars.
However, inflation is a becoming a bigger concern of mine, largely because of agricultural price pressures across the globe. We've seen truly bizzare weather over the last year play havoc with crops. India and China are adding extremely strong pressure to the demand side of the equation, pulling the demand curve to the right. And there is only so much yield to expect from crops. In short, I'm not seeing enough relief in this area of warrant a calmer inflation outlook just yet.