German inflation turns positive in Oct but stays ultra low

BERLIN (Reuters) - Annual inflation in Germany turned positive in October but nonetheless remained ultra low, maintaining pressure on the European Central Bank to take further action to lift prices in the euro zone.

German prices harmonised to compare with other European countries rose by 0.2 percent - the strongest reading since May - after dropping by 0.2 percent last month, preliminary data from the Federal Statistics Office showed on Thursday.

The reading was well below the ECB's target for the whole euro zone of just below 2 percent but came in above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll for consumer prices to increase by 0.1 percent.

"The pressure remains (on the ECB) because the numbers are weak so these numbers support action somewhere but today's numbers do not provide extra impulse for this," said Sal Oppenheim economist Ulrike Kastens.

The ECB is already buying 60 billion euros of assets a month in an attempt to boost prices and ECB President Mario Draghi said last week the bank was considering new stimulus measures and would decide on the matter when it gets updated inflation forecasts from its staff in December.

On Wednesday, three key ECB policy-makers said the bank would keep printing money until price growth picks up and had a duty to use all instruments in its toolbox, including a deposit rate cut, to achieve its inflation target.

While energy prices are likely to push inflation higher in the future, modest wage growth in Germany and weak inflation expectations among consumers here mean core inflation is unlikely to suddenly shoot up, Jennifer McKeown, economist at Capital Economics, said.

"We therefore still see German inflation remaining very subdued over the medium term, implying that fears of over-stimulating the euro zone's strongest economies should not stop the ECB from providing more policy support in December and beyond," she said.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the euro zone inflation rate for October - due out on Friday - to be unchanged after falling by 0.1 percent in September.

But Marco Bargel, an economist at Postbank, said the euro zone rate could pick up to 0.1 percent after the German inflation data came in stronger than expected.

Data earlier on Thursday showed Spanish EU-harmonised consumer prices fell by 0.9 percent on the year in October - more slowly than in the previous month.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin, Editing by Louise Ireland and Angus MacSwan)