Tags: APFN | EU | Britain | Economy

UK Inflation Unexpectedly Falls and Eases Rate-hike Fears

Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 05:16 AM

LONDON (AP) — Inflation in Britain unexpectedly fell in the year to June, official figures showed Tuesday in a development that's likely to ease market expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates soon.

The Office for National Statistics said consumer prices were 2.6 percent higher in the year to June, down from 2.9 percent the previous month. The consensus was that inflation would rise to 3 percent, which would have been a full percentage point higher than the Bank's target rate.

The surprise fall, the first since last October, was largely due to falling gas prices at the pump as lower wholesale crude prices were passed on to drivers.

Despite the fall, living standards in Britain are still falling as price increases outpace wage rises.

Inflation has risen sharply from last June's 0.5 percent largely because the country's vote to leave the European Union triggered a 15 percent drop in the value of the pound. Though a lower pound may help exporters sell their wares in international markets, all other things being equal, it makes imported goods such as food and energy more expensive.

The spike in inflation has caused concern among some rate-setters at the Bank of England. Last month, three of the eight members of the bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted to increase the benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point from the record low of 0.25 percent. The rest though, while acknowledging the inflation spike, thought a rate hike could be counterproductive for the British economy, which grew by less than any other Group of Seven country in the first quarter of the year.

The main uncertainty surrounding the British economy relates to Brexit and what trading relationship the country will have with the EU after it leaves the bloc in March 2019. The British government has only just started full-scale Brexit discussions with the EU.

The pound fell after the inflation data as traders priced in a lower interest rate profile for the country. By midmorning London time, the pound was 0.3 percent lower at $1.3019. Earlier it had hit a 2017 high above $1.31 as traders bet that the inflation data would be higher than anticipated and potentially force the hand of the bank to raise interest rates soon.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said easing inflation, if sustained, could help shore up the British economy in the months ahead as economists had expected real incomes to continue to fall with negative repercussions for retail sales.

"If this fails to materialize the economy could see a stronger second half to the year," he said.

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Inflation in Britain unexpectedly fell in the year to June, official figures showed Tuesday in a development that's likely to ease market expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates soon.The Office for National Statistics said consumer prices were 2.6...
APFN,EU,Britain,Economy
433
2017-16-18
Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 05:16 AM
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