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A few analysts think low inflation could push European Central Bank to cut rates again

The European Central Bank is facing conflicting pressures as it decides Thursday whether to cut interest rates for the 18-country euro currency area.

A number of economists think the bank will hold off slashing rates or taking other measures that might stimulate the economy, while a few think it could cut its benchmark rate from the record low of 0.25 percent to 0.1 percent.

Low inflation of only 0.7 percent has raised fears of deflation — a downward price spiral that has afflicted Japan. And retails sale for December — the Christmas period — disappointed.

Other indicators, such as a survey of business managers, suggest the economy is expanding in line with the bank's prediction for a gradual upswing — and won't need more stimulus.