French Inflation Holds at Record High, Defying European Slowdown - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- French inflation unexpectedly remained at a record high in November, defying a slowdown in other parts of the euro zone and weakening calls for the European Central Bank to slow the pace of interest rate increases.
Consumer prices in the currency bloc’s second-largest economy rose 7.1% from a year earlier, matching October’s increase, statistics office Insee said Wednesday. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated a 7% rise.
European bonds extended a drop after the data, with 10-year German yields rising as much as 6 basis points to 1.98% before paring the move.
The French report follows softer inflation readings Tuesday for Germany, Spain and Belgium. Data for the 19-member euro zone as a whole are due later Wednesday, with economists also estimating a slight moderation -- the first in 1 1/2 years.
That will provide ECB policymakers with their last update on prices before they must decide on Dec. 15 how steeply to lift borrowing costs to help wrest record price gains back toward the 2% target.
Officials have opted for back-to-back hikes of 75 basis points at the last two meetings. The question now is whether they’ll slow that momentum to a half point, especially as the continent teeters on the brink of a recession.
There’s certainly no consensus on doing so. ECB President Christine Lagarde said Monday that she’d be “surprised” if inflation has peaked, while Executive Board member Isabel Schnabel said recently that it may be too early to slow down.
The strength of core inflation -- a measure that strips out energy and food prices -- may also give hawkish policymakers an argument to stick to big increments when raising rates. Economists expect that reading to be stable at 5% in November, even as the headline number dips.
France’s report showed an acceleration in price gains for food and manufactured goods, while energy costs for households softened, even as the government reduced a discount on diesel and gasoline. The price of services rose 3% on the year -- slightly less than the 3.1% seen in October.
A separate release from Insee showed that rising prices are hurting consumers, who cut back on outlays for energy, manufactured goods and food in October. Overall, household spending fell 2.8% -- the sharpest month-on-month decline since April 2021. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a 1% decline.
--With assistance from Ainhoa Goyeneche, Joel Rinneby and Libby Cherry.
(Updates with market reaction in third paragraph.)