flation rate picked up in January, with the reading coming in above market expectations, hitting almost a five-year high. The reading in January was 1.5 percent from 0.3 percent in December. Consumer prices were led higher by transport, housing, telecoms, alcoholic beverages and tobacco costs. Economists polled by Reuters were forecasting a 0.4 percent print in January. For years an inflation outlier in the eurozone, Greece had been in a protracted deflation mode since March 2013 based on its headline index, as wage and pension cuts and a multi-year recession took a heavy toll on Greek household incomes.
Gazprom’s bid to tap into a pipeline meant to wean Europe off Russian gas threatens to undermine a pillar of European energy policy and slow plans to develop rival deposits in the east Mediterranean. As the European Union struggles against the “iron embrace” of Russian pipelines, it has made opening a new Southern Gas Corridor to carry gas from Azerbaijan by 2020 a priority. The 10 billion cubic meter (bcm)-capacity Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is the project’s end piece, joining up with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline at the Turkish border, then crossing Greece and Albania to reach Italy. Construction work on TAP gives EU officials the first non-Russian gas pipeline to supply Europe since Algeria’s Medgaz link nearly a decade ago, paving the way for diluting Gazprom’s large one-third share of Europe’s gas market. That at least was the plan, until Gazprom’s deputy head Alexander Medvedev last month said the company was considering pumping gas through the link under an auction system giving equal access to any would-be supplier. Medvedev questioned Azerbaijan’s ability to fill the pipeline, saying Russia could step in to plug any short falls once the link is expanded.