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UK Inflation Tops 2% For First Time Since December

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UK consumer price inflation exceeded the central bank's target in April for the first time since December, driven by higher utility costs and air fares.

Meanwhile, core inflation held steady for a second month in a row, further damping hopes of an interest rate hike this year.

Consumer price inflation rose to 2.1 percent in April from 1.9 percent in March, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed Wednesday.

The rate exceeded the 2 percent target, but this was slightly below the forecast of 2.2 percent.

Electricity prices surged 10.9 percent and gas prices climbed 9.3 percent. The timing of Easter falling towards the end of April, contributed to an increase in air fares by 26.4 percent.

Core inflation held steady at 1.8 percent, while the rate was forecast to rise marginally to 1.9 percent.

Inflation is likely to remain above 2 percent for the rest of the year, as strong wage growth prompts firms to raise prices, Thomas Pugh, a UK economist at Capital Economics, said.

Nonetheless, with Brexit still looming and growth likely to be modest this year, the economist said the Bank of England is unlikely to raise rates until next summer.

ING economist James Smith said with wage growth close to cycle highs, a November rate hike shouldn't be totally ruled out.

Month-on-month, consumer prices gained 0.6 percent in April versus expected rate of 0.7 percent.

Data showed that the consumer prices index including owner occupiers' housing costs advanced 2 percent annually versus 1.8 percent in March. Likewise, retail price inflation advanced to 3 percent from 2.4 percent.

Another report from ONS showed that output price inflation slowed slightly to a 3-month low of 2.1 percent in April from 2.2 percent in March. The rate has remained positive since July 2016.

On a monthly basis, output prices climbed 0.3 percent following a 0.1 percent rise in the previous month.

On the other hand, input price inflation rose to 3.8 percent from 3.2 percent in March. On month, input prices climbed 1.1 percent, in contrast to a 0.8 percent drop a month ago.

The ONS also reported that house prices increased 1.4 percent annually in March following a 1 percent rise in February.

However, over the past three years, there has been a general slowdown in UK house price growth, driven mainly by a slowdown in the south and east of England, the ONS reported.

The ONS data showed that the budget deficit in April was the lowest for the month since 2007. Public sector net borrowing, or PSNB, excluding public sector banks was GBP 5.8 billion, which was 0.03 billion less than a year ago.

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