Dow Jones Newswires: Eurozone inflation rebounds as Christine Lagarde begins her ECB presidency

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The eurozone’s annual rate of inflation rebounded in November after two straight months of decline, but remained well below the European Central Bank’s target.

Consumer price figures released Friday were the first of Christine Lagarde’s term as ECB president, and indicated that the central bank’s main goal is well beyond its current reach.

However, there was some modest encouragement for the new president, who took over at the start of the month. The European Union’s statistics agency said prices were 1% higher than a year earlier, a faster increase than the 0.9% expected by economists. That marked a pickup in the rate of inflation from 0.7% in October.

The ECB aims for an inflation rate of just below 2%, but has failed to meet that goal in a sustained fashion for many years.

The pickup in inflation was driven by the fastest annual rise in services prices since April, a 1.9% increase that reflects a continued rise in consumer spending power even as the eurozone’s export-oriented manufacturing sector slows.

Figures also released by Eurostat Friday showed the rate of unemployment in the currency area fell to 7.5% in October from 7.6% in September, thanks to a drop of 31,000 in the number of jobless Europeans.

However, recent business surveys suggest the long decline in unemployment is losing momentum, while there appears little prospect of a significant rebound in manufacturing during 2020. As a result, the ECB’s economists expect inflation to be muted, with prices rising by just 1% next year and 1.5% in 2021, still below the central bank’s target.

Ms. Lagarde will announce the first policy decision of her term on December 12, but ECB watchers don’t expect to see any new measures. In September, the ECB cut its already-negative key interest rate, and restarted a paused program of bond purchases.