The specter of growth-sapping deflation finally materialized in the euro zone on Wednesday, with new data confirming that the region had entered a period of falling consumer prices.
Prices in the euro zone fell 0.2 percent year-on-year in December, marking the first time since 2009 that prices have dipped into negative territory. This is likely to add yet more pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) to launch a U.S. Federal-Reserve-style bond-buying program.
Wednesday's flash estimate was below market expectations of a 0.1 percent fall and lower than November's 0.3 percent rise.
Deflation - when consumer prices fall instead of rise - is seen as concerning by many economists, as shoppers hold off on purchases in the hope of further price falls, which puts a brake on the broader economy.
Energy was the main laggard during December that tipped the headline figure into negative territory. Oil prices have seen a dramatic 57 percent fall since mid-June and have weighed heavily on global statistics. Energy prices sank 6.3 percent last month, compared to a fall of 2.6 percent in November, according to Eurostat.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the euro zone held steady at 11.5 percent in November, the same figure for the month before.