Prices in the euro area continued to rise sharply in April.

As the European statistical office Eurostat announced on Friday after an initial estimate, the inflation rate in the euro area was 7.5 percent in April.

In March it was 7.4 percent, in February 5.9 percent.

Inflation rates of more than 7 percent had not existed before since the creation of the European common currency.

Christian Siedenbiedel

Editor in Business.

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As a result, inflation in the euro zone as a whole is currently on a similar scale to that in Germany.

There, the Federal Statistical Office published an initial estimate of 7.4 percent on Thursday.

According to the European method of calculating the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices, German inflation is already at 7.8 percent.

However, there have long been euro countries with completely different inflation rates: the Baltic states and the Netherlands recently led the way with double-digit inflation rates.

Bundesbank President Joachim Nagel believes it is possible that Germany would at least come close to double-digit inflation rates if there were a gas embargo against Russia.

A possible oil embargo against Russia drove the price of oil up on Friday.

Inflation in France has been unusually low for a long time, possibly also due to some political intervention before the election.

France is now nevertheless reporting an increase from 5.1 to 5.4 percent for April.

According to the Insee statistics office, the increase in prices came primarily from rising energy costs, which rose by 26.6 percent year-on-year.

The prices for fresh food also increased at an above-average rate.

Industrially manufactured goods, on the other hand, rose slightly less.

Rise in energy prices slows down somewhat

Compared to the previous year, the largest price increases in Europe can still be observed for energy, especially for heating oil, petrol and diesel.

However, some of these prices have fallen compared to March this year.

The price of oil in particular had fallen again somewhat, which had an impact on many other prices.

In the short term, food, among other things, has become noticeably more expensive, but so has travel.

"Unsurprisingly, energy prices have risen sharply again compared to the previous year, even if the price increase has eased somewhat," commented DZ Bank analyst Christoph Swonke on the latest price developments.

"Food, goods and services are playing an increasingly important role in inflation, and the direct impact of the war in Ukraine is particularly evident in food." There are increasing supply bottlenecks and the expectation that the harvests, especially in Ukraine, will be much smaller this year fail than usual. That stresses the food markets.

In view of the global supply chain problems and the discussion about energy security due to the unclear progress of the Ukraine war, inflation will remain at a high level in the coming months: "An easing is not in sight."

So far, the European Central Bank (ECB) has hesitated to take swift action against the high inflation.

The official line is that at the next monetary policy meeting on June 9, based on the data available, a decision will be made to end bond purchases in the third quarter, i.e. the months July to September, and to raise interest rates "some time afterwards".

"Some time later" could mean a week later or a few months later, ECB President Christine Lagarde said.

The ECB could raise interest rates in July - but that's not certain yet

However, there were now increasing voices from the ECB, not only from individual national governors but also from the Governing Board, who are calling for the first interest rate hike in July.

ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos described rate hikes as "possible" in July.

Then one could obviously interpret the previous communication of the central bank in such a way that the last purchases of new bonds could already be made in June and according to the planned sequence the way for interest rate increases in July is then free - or that both take place in July.

Financial markets are now somewhat more confident that the ECB will act soon.

In any case, the investment bank Goldman Sachs has revised its forecast for further interest rate developments upwards: It now expects the ECB to raise its key interest rates by 0.25 percent in July, followed by further interest rate hikes in September and December and four further steps in the coming year 2023

In addition, the Goldman Sachs economists expect that the ECB will probably decide in June whether to end its bond purchase program at the end of the second quarter.

The economists attribute this forecast to, among other things, better than expected growth development in the euro area, persistently strong inflationary pressure and recent statements by the ECB on high inflation expectations.

Ulrich Kater, economist at Deka-Bank, commented: "The inflation alarm clock has been ringing for some time, the ECB has only ever pressed the snooze button - that's over now, the central bank will act."