European consumer prices climb at highest rate on record
February consumer price inflation in Europe accelerated by 5.9% compared to last year’s 0.9% per annum, marking the fastest annual jump on record, Eurostat statistics agency said on Thursday.
The indicator rose sharply from 5.1% in January. Prices spiked most in Lithuania (14.0%), Estonia (11.6%) and the Czech Republic (10.0%). The lowest annual price rise rates were registered in Malta and France (both 4.2%), and Portugal, Finland, and Sweden (all 4.4%). According to the agency’s data, inflation fell in only two EU member states, while spiking in 25.
The highest spikes were recorded in the energy sector, followed by services, food, alcohol, tobacco, and non-energy industrial goods.
Experts warn that prices are only going to grow. Berlin-based energy provider GASAG said this month that the average German family will see its gas bill increase by at least 26% starting in May. Prices at gasoline pumps in Europe have nearly doubled in March to around €2 per liter ($8.25/gallon).
This comes as Russia begins to retaliate against EU sanctions to keep the country’s economy running. Moscow recently banned exports of more than 200 items to “unfriendly states,” including telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical, and tech equipment, among other items, until the end of 2022. The government also “suspended the export of several types of timber and timber products to states that are undertaking hostile actions against Russia.”
However, the major question remains whether Russia will move to cut its oil and gas supplies to European states, which, analysts say, would propel energy prices and push the region’s economy into recession.
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