BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone producer prices rose by more than expected in December due to much more expensive energy, data showed on Thursday, but edged only slightly higher excluding the volatile energy component.
The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said industrial producer prices rose 0.7 percent month-on-month in December for a 1.6 percent year-on-year increase -- the latter the highest rate in almost four years.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a rise of 0.4 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.
The main driver behind the increase was more expensive energy, the prices of which jumped 2.1 percent month-on-month and by 3.9 percent from a year earlier.
Without the volatile energy component, producer prices were up 0.3 percent month-on-month and 0.9 percent year-on-year.
More expensive energy also boosted euro zone consumer prices in January to 1.8 percent year-on-year, the European Central Bank target, but core consumer inflation, which excludes energy and unprocessed food costs, was only 0.9 percent.
The ECB, which has been pumping money into the economy to boost inflation, has said it would not start curbing its bond buying program until core inflation also picks up in a sustainable way.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)