Euro zone inflation slowed as expected in November, while core inflation readings were below market expectations.

Today's figures support European Central Bank policymakers who favour a cautious exit from monetary stimulus. 

Consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose by 2% year-on-year in November after a near six-year high of 2.2% in October, EU statistics agency Eurostat said today. 

The decline matched the average expectation in a Reuters poll of economists. 

Headline inflation has been at or above the ECB's target of almost 2% for months.

But the bank has downplayed the risk of an overshoot, arguing that underlying trends remain weak and only volatile energy costs are pushing up consumer prices. 

Indeed, Eurostat said that energy prices rose by 9.1% year-on-year, from 10.7% in October, while unprocessed food prices were up 1.8% from a 2.1% increase last month. 

Inflation excluding those two volatile components - the core indicator that the ECB watches in its policy decisions - also fell, to 1.1% from 1.2% in October, compared to expectations of a slight increase.

Another core inflation reading often watched by economists, which removes all food, energy, alcohol and tobacco prices, also dropped to 1%. Forecasts were for it to be unchanged at 1.1%. 

Both indicate that record employment and rising wages have yet to fully feed through to prices. 

The ECB still plans to end its €2.6 trillion bond purchase scheme next month, arguing that inflation is now well on its way to the target and the euro zone economy will continue to expand even with reduced support. 

But it also expects to maintain an oversized balance sheet for years to come and interest rates at record lows at least through next summer to keep monetary policy highly accommodative for an extended period. 

The ECB now expects inflation to average 1.7% up to 2020 but an oil price drop of more than 30% since early October has raised downside risks to its projections. 

The bank will next meet on December 13 and investors expect it to reaffirm its policy stance and to detail how it will use cash from maturing bonds to keep borrowing costs low. 

Meanwhile, Eurostat also said today that the euro zone jobless rate remained unchanged at 8.1% in October compared to September, compared to market forecasts of a drop to 8%. 

The October data remained however the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since November 2008, Eurostat said.