ecb_3004207bPortugal has crashed into deep deflation and Italy’s inflation rate has fallen to zero as the eurozone flirts with recession, automatically pushing these countries further towards a debt compound spiral. The slide comes amid signs of a deepening slowdown in the eurozone core, with even Germany flirting with possible recession. Germany’s ZEW index of investor confidence plunged from 27.1 to 8.6 in July, the sharpest fall since June 2012, during the European sovereign debt crisis. “The European Central Bank has to act now,” said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS.

Markets were stunned by the sudden fall in Portugal’s HICP inflation to -0.7 in July, from -0.2pc the month before. Spain’s provisional estimate is for a fall of 0.3pc.

The risk is that this cause inflation expectations to become unhinged and extremely difficult to reverse. “The latest inflation figures call for the ultimate bazooka from the ECB. We’re seeing the Japanification of Europe,” said Lena Komileva from G+ Economics. “Deflation pushes up the debt ratios in the southern countries and makes their task even more insurmountable.”The ECB is waiting to see whether its new four-year loans for banks (TLTROs) will stop the relentless contraction of credit and stave off the threat of a Japanese-style deflation trap, but the auctions will not take place until September and December. “Europe could be in deflation before the TLTROs have even begun. They cannot wait until February or March to start thinking about quantitative easing,” said Mr Roberts. More