Wiesbaden (dpa) - Lower energy prices have pushed the inflation rate in Germany to its lowest level since February 2018. Consumer prices rose in September compared to the same month last year by 1.2 percent. This was reported by the Federal Statistical Office, confirming provisional data.

In August, the rate was still at 1.4 percent. Especially for energy (minus 1.1 percent) people had to spend less than a year earlier. Compared with August 2019, consumer prices remained unchanged in September.

Significantly cheaper than in the same month last year were light heating oil (minus 10.5 percent) and fuel (minus 6.7 percent). District heating, natural gas and electricity became more expensive. Excluding energy prices, the inflation rate in September would have been 1.4 percent. At the same time, the price increase for food weakened to 1.3 percent. In August, an increase of 2.7 percent compared to the same month last year was recorded.

The inflation rate is an important indicator of the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB). For the entire eurozone and its 19 countries, the central bank is aiming for an annual inflation rate of just under 2.0 percent in the medium term - far enough from the zero mark. Because prices that are consistently low or wide-spread could mislead businesses and consumers to postpone investment. That can slow down the economy.

According to initial figures from the statistics office Eurostat, price increases in the eurozone had also weakened in September. Annual inflation reached 0.9 percent, the lowest level since November 2016.

In view of the economic slowdown and comparatively weak inflation, the European Central Bank (ECB) recently further eased its monetary policy. An interest rate increase longed for by savers has become a long way off. The central bank also requires banks not only higher penalty interest when parking money at the central bank. As of November, it will also invest € 20 billion per month in the purchase of bonds - and this for an indefinite period. However, many economists doubt that the additional easing will bring inflation closer to the central bank's target.