Inflation in the eurozone is "clearly" below target, a European Central Bank board member said Thursday, as markets speculate over the chances of further action to boost economic activity in the region.
Eurozone inflation fell to negative 0.1 percent in September, feeding concerns over the risk of a deflationary spiral in which consumers delay purchases in the hope of lower prices, in turn prompting companies to hold off investment and hiring.
"One has to say that we're clearly missing our (inflation) target," ECB governing council member Ewald Nowotny said, quoted by the Bloomberg news agency.
Sharp falls in commodity and oil prices were the main cause, he said.
"One has to say that these are elements the central bank cannot influence, but also core inflation rates are clearly below our target," the Austrian economist added.
The ECB is predicting economic growth in the eurozone this year at 1.4 percent and inflation at a bare 0.1 percent this year rising to 1.1 percent next year.
The outlook is fanning market speculation that the ECB may strengthen its bond-buying programme aimed at pushing eurozone inflation back up to levels that are more conducive to healthy economic growth, or extend it beyond its original duration ending in September 2016.
The ECB launched the so-called quantitative easing programme in March under which it aims to buy as much as 1.1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) of bonds at a rate of 60 billion euros per month until September next year.
"Nowotny's comments differ from the recent 'wait and see' mantra coming from several ECB policymakers including President Mario Draghi regarding the need for more stimulative action," IHS Global Insight chief UK and European economist Howard Archer said in a report.
"Nowotny's comments will certainly spice up interest in next Thursday's ECB policy meeting."