Euro zone inflation rose to 1.5 percent year-on-year in August, narrowly beating analyst expectations and edging slightly closer to the European Central Bank's (ECB) target, according to flash estimates released by Eurostat on Thursday.
The European Union's statistics office projected consumer prices in the euro zone would reach its highest level in four months in August. The estimate is the highest rate since April, when inflation stood at 1.9 percent, and could raise expectations that the ECB will soon start to wind down its ultra-loose monetary policy.
Eurostat's August forecast of 1.5 percent is up from 1.3 percent in July and above market expectations for a 1.4 percent rise.
Meanwhile, core inflation - a measure which excludes the two most volatile components of food and energy and is closely watched by the ECB - was stable at 1.3 percent in August. Market expectations had predicted core inflation rates would slip to 1.2 percent this month.
Last week, ECB President Mario Draghi had called for investors to remain patient regarding the furor over the central bank's ultra-loose monetary policy. Speaking at Jackson Hole on Friday, Draghi stressed that more time would be required in order for inflation to reach the 19-member bloc's target of 2 percent.
However, higher-than-expected inflation estimates on Thursday are likely to increase the pressure on ECB officials ahead of a policy meeting next week.
On Wednesday, German and Spanish consumer prices were stronger-than-anticipated in August. German consumer prices rose 1.8 percent in August, according to the Federal Statistics Office, up from a 1.5 percent annual increase last month. Meantime, Spain's harmonized consumer prices rose 2 percent when compared to the same period 12 months ago, amid strong growth in the bloc's fourth largest economy.
In a separate release on Thursday, the EU statistics office said the euro zone's unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in July, the same level as the month previous and the lowest rate since February 2009.
Elsewhere, energy products rose 4 percent in August on an annual basis. This marked a 2.2 percent increase from July.