LONDON: UK inflation surged unexpectedly past the Bank of England’s (BoE) target for the first time in almost two years, an increase that will add to speculation about when monetary policy could be tightened.
Consumer prices rose 2.1% from a year earlier, the highest since July 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Economists and the BoE had expected an increase of 1.8%. Core inflation jumped to 2%, the most since August 2018.
The pickup reflected higher prices for fuel, restaurant meals, clothing and recreational goods as the economy took a further step out of lockdown.
The central bank expects inflation to breach its 2% target temporarily and fall back at the end of 2022.
The data could embolden those economists who are concerned that higher prices could prove more persistent given the rapid pace of recovery.
“Inflation has risen sharply in recent months and will rise further as the impact of higher commodities prices feed through the supply chain, ” said Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation.
“But UK inflationary pressures are different – and nowhere as near as large – as those causing fierce debate in the US.”
The immediate market reaction suggested investors support the BoE’s view that the inflation gain will be temporary. The pound rose 0.3% against the US dollar, and the yield on benchmark 10-year gilts gained fractionally.
Separate figures showed that pipeline price pressures continued to build in May. Producer input prices reflecting the cost to industry for fuel and raw materials rose by 10.7% over the past year, their biggest increase in a decade.
That’s pushing up the price of goods leaving factory gates at the fastest pace since 2012.
The ONS said the cost of transport equipment along with metals and non-metallic minerals provided the largest upward contributions to producer price inflation.
“There is a greater level of uncertainty about prices at present, with a possibility that inflation will turn out to be higher if staff shortages persist, triggering stronger wage rises, while cost increases continue to be passed on to consumers, ” said Yael Selfin, chief economist at the accounting firm KPMG UK.
BoE chief economist Andy Haldane, who departs his post at the end of this month, said last week that pay and costs are already rising and high street inflation “can’t be far behind.”
His colleague Gertjan Vlieghe says policymakers could raise the benchmark rate as early as next year if the labour market recovers smoothly when government job subsidies come to an end in September. — Bloomberg