Euro zone consumer prices grew less than expected in February because of a fall in unprocessed food prices and reduced energy inflation, data from the European Union's statistics office Eurostat showed today. 

Inflation in the 19 countries sharing the euro was 0.2% month-on-month and 1.1% year-on-year. 

Economists polled by Reuters had expected that monthly increase, but forecast a 1.2% annual rise, in line with Eurostat's own earlier estimate. 

Unprocessed food prices fell 0.3% month-on-month in February for a 0.9% year-on-year decline, which subtracted 0.07 points from the overall final annual figure. 

Energy prices also fell 0.3% on the month for a 2.1% year-on-year rise, slowing from 2.2% in January. 

Without these two most volatile components, a measure the European Central Bank calls core inflation, prices rose 0.3% on the month and 1.2% year-on-year, the same annual rate as in January. 

Some economists look at an inflation measure that excludes even more volatile components, like alcohol and tobacco prices which are often subject to government changes in excise tax. 

This measure of inflation showed prices rising 0.4% month-on-month and 1% year-on-year, also unchanged from the January rate. 

The ECB wants to keep headline inflation below, but close to 2% year-on-year over the medium-term.

It has been buying tens of billions of euro zone government bonds on the secondary market to pump cash into the banking system and provoke bigger credit action that would boost economic growth and inflation. 

ECB President Mario Draghi has said that core inflation has yet to show "convincing signs of a sustained upward trend" because of slack in the labour market and the economy. 

Data on labour costs in the fourth quarter of 2017 released separately by Eurostat confirmed that analysis.

The growth of labour costs eased for a second consecutive quarter to 1.5% in the three months from October to December, although wage costs rose 1.7% from 1.6% in the third quarter.