Business sentiment also fell in December to the lowest level in almost two years, but the drop was much less than the markets had expected, with services confidence posting a partial recovery.
Inflation remained above 3 percent, compared with the below-2-percent comfort zone for the ECB, while pressures have been accumulating. Euro zone industrial producer price inflation rose to 4.1 percent in November from October's 3.3 percent rise, while unemployment remained at an historical 7.2 percent low.
And money supply in the euro zone also pointed to inflation dangers further along, remaining at a record high of 12.3 percent in November.
Inflation Fears Grow
Trichet reiterated his fears as early as Monday when, after a meeting of 10 main central banks in Basel, said that "there cannot be complacency when it comes to inflation and market correction," AFP reported.
All these point to the fact that the ECB might, this time, raise rates to fulfill its mission to protect price stability.
But virtually all analysts say the bank will stand pat.
"The signs of euro-zone economic slowdown are not that strong as to make them nervous. But with inflation at 3 percent, it's very difficult for them," Stefan Schneider, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Research, told CNBC.com.
"They will continue to sit on their hands and talk hawkish," Schneider added.
If the newcomers to the club would be comfortable with higher rates, the old euro-zone members, notably France and Italy, could do with a cut.
French Finance Minister Christina Lagarde has again urged the ECB to consider boosting growth more important than fighting inflation, telling the International Herald Tribune this week that she had a "preference for temporarily higher inflation and higher growth."
"I hope this view is shared by some of our European partners and communicated to the European Central Bank," she said.
Meanwhile, in France and in Germany demands for wage hikes grow louder and louder, while in Italy workers have asked for tax cuts to make up for rising inflation and stagnating salaries, giving the ECB more headaches.
And despite Trichet being pleased with last year's concerted efforts by major central banks to pump liquidity in the money markets to bring down short-time rates, these markets are still not totally back to normal.
"We are still too high (in the money markets)," Lammer said. "I don't think it's a matter of liquidity anymore, it's a matter of trust."
Banks and funds are still hoarding cash, as the bad news from the banking sector unfolds. Analysts are saying that until the banks' balance sheets data comes out at the end of the quarter, things are unlikely to settle down.
So the most probable scenario is that the ECB will once again be doing nothing, although some of the members of the Governing Council are aching to hike the rate.
But for the moment, they can only hope that the strong euro will fight inflation, since it dampens the effects of rises in the prices of oil and other commodities.
Failing that, they can always pray that the Year of the Rat prophecy comestrue.