The eurozone annual inflation rate fell for a second month in a row, to 9.2 percent in December, the first drop into single digits since September, the EU statistics agency said Friday. Boosted by a slowdown in the rate of energy prices rises, inflation fell last month from 10.1 percent in November. Consumer prices had reached a record 10.6 percent in October, five times higher than the European Central Bank’s target. Analysts had expected the inflation rate in the single currency area to drop again but the fall was larger than predicted by Bloomberg and FactSet, which foresaw 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent respectively. Energy costs rose 25.7 percent in December compared to 34.9 percent a month earlier. Food and drink costs also rose. ECB chief Christine Lagarde last month promised to bring down sky-high inflation and warned the eurozone to brace for more rate hikes in 2023 despite hopes consumer prices peaked. “We are raising interest rates and we will raise them further, at a steady pace, until they are at a level which ensures a timely return of inflation to our two-percent medium-term target,” Lagarde said in a holiday message on December 23. Among the 20 countries that use the euro, including Croatia which joined this month, Spain has the lowest inflation rate, reaching 5.6 percent in December, Eurostat said.