Eurozone inflation falls by less than predicted

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Inflation in the 17 countries that use the euro did not fall as much as predicted during March, in a further sign that rising oil prices are having an impact on the countries' economies.

Figures from Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed inflation in the eurozone in the year to March fell to 2.6 percent from 2.7 percent the previous month.

The decline was not as big as predicted. The consensus in the markets was for the rate to fall to 2.5 percent.

Inflation in the eurozone remains above the European Central Bank's target of keeping price rises just below 2 percent. That suggests that the ECB has less room to cut interest rates further if it wanted to. It meets again next week and the expectation is that the benchmark interest rate will be maintained at 1 percent.

Rising oil prices in recent weeks have raised concerns that inflation may not fall below target as quickly as hoped.

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