U.K. Inflation Accelerates to Highest in More Than Two Years

  • Weaker pound, higher oil costs, boosting price growth
  • Import costs surge by almost 15%, most in five years

Gilles Moec: 3% U.K. Inflation 'Certainly Within Range'

U.K. inflation accelerated more than economists forecast in November, boosted by prices for clothing and gasoline.

The jump to 1.2 percent from 0.9 percent in October means consumer prices are rising at the fastest pace since October 2014. Economists had anticipated an increase to 1.1 percent.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics also added to evidence of the buildup in inflation pressures because of the pound’s decline since Britain voted to leave the European Union and rising oil costs. U.K. import prices surged almost 15 percent in November, the biggest annual increase in five years, and upward pressure from energy may intensify after this month’s output cut by OPEC.

The rapid change in the outlook for prices in recent months has forced the Bank of England to shift its stance after cutting interest rates in August following the Brexit vote. Economists forecast the BOE will keep the key rate at a record-low 0.25 percent when it announces its final decision of 2016 on Thursday.

“We expect consumer price inflation to trend markedly higher over the coming months as sterling weakness increasingly feeds through,” said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Markit in London. Still, “the BOE will be pretty tolerant on the probable appreciable inflation overshoot given the prolonged, highly uncertain outlook that the U.K. economy is likely to face as the government negotiates the exit from the EU.”

The pound rose against the dollar after the data were released and was at $1.2707 as of 10:05 a.m. London time, up 0.2 percent on the day.

Clothing, Fuel

The ONS said the largest upward effect on the annual inflation rate in November came from clothing, motor fuels and equipment such as computers and laptops. On the month, prices increased 0.2 percent.

Separate data showed factory-gate prices rose an annual 2.3 percent in November, the most since April 2012. Input prices surged 12.9 percent year-on-year, with import costs up 14.6 percent.

With forecasts pointing to a sharp inflation pickup in 2017, BOE officials dropped guidance last month indicating that lower rates were likely before the end of the year, instead saying they could respond “in either direction” to the economic outlook.

Almost two-thirds of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg see the BOE’s next move -- when it comes -- as a rate hike as policy makers confront inflation that could exceed their 2 percent target by early next year.

Core inflation -- which excludes volatile food and energy prices -- increased to 1.4 percent in November from 1.2 percent in October, the ONS said. That was faster than the 1.3 percent predicted by economists in a Bloomberg survey.

— With assistance by Mark Evans, Harumi Ichikura, and Scott Hamilton

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