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A Reuters poll of forecasters found on Thursday, that the threat of deflation across the euro zone is more serious than the European Central Bank claims, as austerity imposed on peripheral economies is already pushing prices lower. The ECB has played down the possibility of deflation in the 18-member bloc. But 22 of 46 economists, polled Feb 7-13, rated the risk as “somewhat serious” and eight said it was “serious.” Fourteen said it was not serious and 2 said it was non-existent. A growing minority now say the central bank is underestimating the threat but these economists don’t have enough conviction yet to turn risks into actual forecasts. The consensus view still points to inflation averaging 1.0 percent this year, unchanged from last month’s survey, albeit well below the ECB’s preferred 2 percent ceiling.

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