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UK inflation rises to fresh 40-year peak of 9.1% as cost of living crisis worsens – business live


To recap: UK inflation has risen to 9.1%, the highest rate in 40 years amid the soaring cost of food and record prices for petrol and diesel.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, hit its highest level since March 1982, adding to the strain on households, especially those on lower incomes.

The ONS said the main contribution came from food and non-alcoholic drink prices rising at the fastest annual rate since 2009. Bread, cereals and meat in particular became more expensive, while fruit prices were little changed last month.

Record prices for petrol and diesel also drove inflation higher as motor fuels jumped by nearly a third over the past year, the biggest annual increase on records dating back to 1989.

Last week the Bank of England warned inflation was on course to reach 11% later this year as gas and electricity prices soar. Meanwhile, the government and Network Rail are at loggerheads with rail unions in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions and the biggest train strikes since the 1980s. Rail workers have been offered a pay rise of just 2%.

The ONS has started tracking the price of the lowest-cost grocery items.

The sample contained a range of products from pasta or rice to milk or frozen vegetables. For each item, the price of the cheapest product was selected from online shops.

The highly experimental results showed that the lowest-priced items increased in cost by a similar amount to average food and non-alcoholic drinks prices, around 6% to 7% over the 12 months to April 2022. However, there is considerable variation in price movements across the 30 items.

My colleague, our Money editor Hilary Osborne, tweets:

Inflation well into double digits for lots of basic food stuffs now: low-fat milk is now 19.4% more expensive than a year ago, pasta and flour up by more than 16% each, oils and fats up 18%

— hilaryosborne (@hilaryosborne) June 22, 2022

While gas and electricity prices have soared in the UK following a jump in wholesale costs, other governments have done more to mitigate the impact on consumers.

The Spanish government intends to cut the value-added tax charged on electricity bills further, to 5% from the current 10%, prime minister Pedro Sanchez said today, Reuters reported. Last yer, Madrid reduced the value-added tax rate on electricity to 10% in a bid to slow down the effect of the wholesale electricity price rises on consumers.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, has crunched the numbers.

Looking ahead, we think the headline rate of consumer price inflation will hold broadly steady in June and during Q3, as further increases in food and motor fuel inflation are countered by a decline in core CPI inflation. Note that the month-to-month rise in the core CPI [excluding food and energy] in June 2021 was a hefty 0.5pp larger than its average June rise in the 2010s, primarily because services firms hiked prices as they exited the lockdown.

In addition, price rises should start to come off the boil for many discretionary goods, now that consumers have less money left over following big increases in food and energy prices. The run-rate of price rises in the services sector likely will ease too, now that hospitality and tourism businesses have fully responded to the return of their VAT rate to 20%.

Alas, the headline rate likely will climb to a new peak of about 10.5% in October, when Ofgem looks set to increase its default tariff cap by about 45%. But the decline in core inflation should gather momentum later this year, as recent falls in shipping costs are passed on to consumers and global producer output price inflation rolls over, now that both the inventory rebuilding cycle and the recovery in consumer demand are petering out.

We think that the monetary policy committee will stop hiking Bank Rate as soon as month-to-month increases in the core CPI have slowed to their long-run average rate—a point which we think will be reached in the autumn. As a result, we expect the committee to hike Bank Rate by 25bp in August and a further 25bp in September, before then leaving it on hold at 1.75% from November onwards.

Europe’s main share indices have opened lower.

The FTSE 100 index in London has lost 100 points, or 1.4%, to 7,051 at the opening bell. Germany’s Dax is down 1.7%, France’s CAC has lost 1.6%, Spain’s Ibex slid 1.2% and Italy’s FTSE MiB recorded the largest fall, of 1.8%.

To recap: UK inflation has risen to 9.1%, the highest rate in 40 years amid the soaring cost of food and record prices for petrol and diesel.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, hit its highest level since March 1982, adding to the strain on households, especially those on lower incomes.

The ONS said the main contribution came from food and non-alcoholic drink prices rising at the fastest annual rate since 2009. Bread, cereals and meat in particular became more expensive, while fruit prices were little changed last month.

Record prices for petrol and diesel also drove inflation higher as motor fuels jumped by nearly a third over the past year, the biggest annual increase on records dating back to 1989.

Last week the Bank of England warned inflation was on course to reach 11% later this year as gas and electricity prices soar. Meanwhile, the government and Network Rail are at loggerheads with rail unions in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions and the biggest train strikes since the 1980s. Rail workers have been offered a pay rise of just 2%.

Some Asda shoppers set £30 limits at the tills, says Lord Rose

Some Asda shoppers are setting £30 limits at the tills and petrol pumps, the supermarket’s chairman, Lord Stuart Rose, has said.

The former M&S boss told the BBC that customers are putting less in their baskets and switching to budget ranges as they worry about the future.

What we’re seeing is a massive change in behaviour.

People are trading back. They are worried about spending.

They’ve got a limit that they’ve set out, too. They say £30 is one limit… and if they get to more than £30 then that’s it, stop. It’s the same with petrol.

Lord Rose said he saw the inflation rise coming last year like a “train coming through a tunnel with a big flashing light on the top”. Now it’s time to “fasten our seatbelts”, he said, and urged the government to do more to help low-income households.

The retail veteran remembers the runaway inflation of the 1970s.

I’m of the generation that remembers what it was like last time. And once [inflation] gets hold, it’s quite pernicious.

And it takes a long time to eradicate… We’re in danger of being in a place that it’s very difficult to extricate ourselves from.

What’s rather sad is that the country, the government, perhaps the Bank of England didn’t see inflation coming quickly. They’ve now recognised that.

Petrol stations in and around Staines, Asda
Petrol stations in and around Staines, Asda Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, has urged the government to do more to help those on the lowest incomes, by “significantly raising benefits”.

With inflation now at 9.1%, rising costs are weighing heavily on household budgets. For many people, the increasing burden of high prices is already taking its toll and is only adding to the difficulty of meeting day-to-day costs.

At National Debtline and Business Debtline we are hearing from more and more people with deficit budgets – where their income simply isn’t enough to cover their basic needs. Our worry is that options are running out for people who are already in financial difficulty.

The package of further support recently announced by the government goes some way towards helping households under pressure. For those on the lowest income, however, urgent action is needed, including significantly raising benefits.

Money.
Money. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

As inflation hits 9.1%, @ONS spokesman says he doesn’t want to forecast when prices will come down.
But says the “slowing economy” will take “pressure off prices” over medium term.
That’s the govt’s problem right there: no gain on tackling inflation without pain of lower growth

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) June 22, 2022

While food, energy and petrol costs all rose, games and toys became cheaper in May, reflecting price changes for computer games, particularly downloads. Overall prices fell by 2.4%, compared with a rise of 2.8% a year earlier.

However, the ONS warned that price movements for computer games can sometimes be large, depending on the bestseller charts, so “short-term movements need to be interpreted with caution”. Prices of television also fell.

You can read more here.

UK inflation
UK inflation Photograph: Office for National Statistics

The chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:

I know that people are worried about the rising cost of living, which is why we have taken targeted action to help families, getting £1,200 to the eight million most vulnerable households.

We are using all the tools at our disposal to bring inflation down and combat rising prices – we can build a stronger economy through independent monetary policy, responsible fiscal policy which doesn’t add to inflationary pressures, and by boosting our long-term productivity and growth.

However, he has been criticised for not doing enough to help those most affected by the soaring cost of living.

Average petrol and diesel prices in May were the highest on record, the ONS said — 165.9 pence per litre for petrol, compared with 127.2p a year earlier, and 179.7p per litre for diesel. The 12-month rate for motor fuels was 32.8%, the highest since before the start of the data series in January 1989.

Energy costs also pushed up consumer prices in May. The ONS said as wholesale gas prices quadrupled in the last year, the rise resulted in 12-month inflation rates of 53.5% for electricity and 95.5% for gas in April. These are unchanged in May.

UK inflation rises to 9.1%

NEWS FLASH: UK inflation has risen to 9.1% in May from 9% in April as the cost of living crisis worsens. It’s the highest since March 1982.

That’s the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics. The ONS said rising prices for food and non-alcoholic drinks, compared with falls a year ago, pushed up the inflation rate.

The Covid pandemic and war in Ukraine have pushed consumer price inflation up to levels not seen in 40 years. But businesses face rising costs too. Brogan Taylor and Ryan Powell explain all in our latest blog. 👇https://t.co/wv4b8UMhlC

— ONS Focus (@ONSfocus) June 21, 2022

Low-income families in the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods are paying up to £541 a year more than affluent households to access the same basic services such as energy and insurance, and buy essential items such as TVs and fridges, according to a study, writes our social policy editor Patrick Butler.

The Fair by Design charity has called for the government and regulators to outlaw practices it says discriminate against the poorest families, costing them hundreds of pounds a year because of where they live, how much they earn, or how they are paid.

One in eight households in the UK experiences at least one type of poverty premium, paying on average £430 a year in extra costs, though it is far more prevalent in deprived areas, especially in the north and Midlands regions of England.

Britain’s cost of living crisis is being made worse by Brexit dragging down the country’s growth potential and costing workers hundreds of pounds a year in lost pay, new research claims, writes our economics correspondent Richard Partington.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank and academics from the London School of Economics said the average worker in Britain was now on course to suffer more than £470 in lost pay each year by 2030 after rising living costs are taken into account, compared with a remain vote in 2016.

In a report six years on from the referendum, the researchers said Brexit was damaging the competitiveness of UK exports on the world stage just as companies are forced to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine pushing inflation to historic levels.

“A less open Great Britain is expected to be poorer and less productive,” it said.

Official figures due on Wednesday are expected to show a fresh rise in the inflation rate from 9% in April to 9.1% last month, as surging petrol prices and the rising cost of a weekly shop ramps up the pressure on struggling families. The Bank of England has warned the inflation rate could reach 11% by October.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMCM Markets UK, says:

Today’s main focus will be on the latest UK inflation numbers for May, as well as US Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell’s testimony to US lawmakers this afternoon.

Last week the Bank of England caused a few eyebrows to go up when they only raised the base rate by 25 basis points, while at the same time saying that they would act “forcefully” on inflation if necessary.

They then followed that up by saying they expect inflation to peak at an eye watering 11% by year end, an upgrade from its previous 10% estimate, begging the question as to what level of inflation would justify a bigger hike?

With headline inflation already at 9% this messaging merely served to showcase what a muddle the Bank of England finds itself in, and was reinforced yesterday by chief economist Huw Pill when he said that the central bank would allow growth to weaken in order to help the bank hit its 2% inflation target.

Introduction: UK inflation to rise to fresh 40-year high

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the world economy and the financial markets.

It’s inflation day in the UK, and the latest data are expected to show another increase in the cost of living to a fresh 40-year high. Economists are forecasting that the annual inflation rate rose to 9.1% in May from 9% in April, and will push higher into double digits in coming months.

A 9.1% rate would be the highest since March 1982, almost five times the Bank of England’s 2% target. Annual inflation was last in double digits in February 1982, when it was at 10.2%. The Office for National Statistics is due to release the latest consumer price index figures at 7am BST.

Inflation is expected to reach 11% by October by the Bank of England’s own estimates.

My colleagues Niels de Hoog, Ashley Kirk and Hilary Osborne have looked at how the cost of living crisis is hammering UK households (please note that Niels’ Twitter handle is @nielsdhg).

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said:

We are forecasting the headline CPI rate to remain at 9.0%, but expect a combination of firmer food costs, higher petrol prices and another sharp hike in the energy price cap (in October) to push inflation into double figures over the coming months.

At the same time, wage growth hasn’t kept up with inflation. Annual pay growth stalled at 4% in the three months to May, according to figures from XpertHR published yesterday. The report follows a Bank of England business survey that showed employers surveyed in May were not planning a further acceleration in pay rates.

This means that the spectre of a 1970s-style “wage-price spiral” that could force the Bank of England to raise interest rates dramatically hasn’t materialised, at least so far.

National rail services will start later in the day and with reduced schedules today, owing to the knock-on effects of yesterday’s walkout when 80% of services were axed. It was the first day of the biggest rail strikes in decades. There is more misery to come for travellers though: the second day of the rail strikes is tomorrow, and the third on Saturday.

Our transport correspondent Gwyn Topham has done a handy explainer on the strikes:

Asia-Pacific markets slipped again, despite gains of more than 2% on Wall Street’s main indices. Japan’s Nikkei is down 0.05% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has fallen 1.15% while the South Korean Kospi lost 1.9%. European shares are also expected to open lower.

The Agenda

  • 1.30pm BST: Canada inflation for May (forecast: 7.4%)
  • 2.30pm BST: US Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell testifies to lawmakers
  • 3pm BST: Eurozone consumer confidence flash for June (forecast: -20.5)





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