Official figures show that euro zone inflation slowed to 2.6% in March from 2.7% in February, a figure still well above the ceiling favoured by the European Central Bank.

The rate given by the EU's Eurostat data agency marked the 16th month running during which inflation exceeded the ECB's target of below but close to 2%. It peaked at 3% in September.

Earlier this month, the ECB raised its annual inflation forecast for 2012 in the euro zone from 2% to 2.4%.