Inflation in leading economies slowed in April and the 12 months leading up to it as energy prices plunged amid the economic crisis, the OECD said on Wednesday.

   Consumer prices in the 30 states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rose by 0.6 per cent in the 12 months to April, compared with 0.9 per cent in the year to March, it said.

   Month-on-month, inflation in the zone fell to 0.2 per cent in April from 0.3 per cent the previous month. Inflation has fallen steadily since February, after recovering from several months of falling prices.

   Consumer prices for energy were down by 13.3 per cent in the year to April, following a fall of 11.9 per cent in the year to March, it said.

   Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose 1.9 per cent in the year to April 2009, compared with 1.8 per cent in March.

   In the world’s two biggest economies, the United States and Japan, prices fell overall. The US consumer price index fell 0.7 per cent over the year to April and Japan’s fell 0.3 per cent.

   The consumer price index for the eurozone was “stable” in the year to April, according to the OECD, with inflation of 0.6 per cent.

   The prospect of a sustained fall in prices, known as deflation, causes concern since it means consumers may put off purchases in the hope of buying more cheaply later.

   This can undercut production and employment, setting up a vicious circle of ever decreasing economic activity.