The UK consumer price index (CPI) fell to 3.9% year-over year in November, much lower than the 4.6% gain in October, and below the market estimate of 4.4%. This was the lowest level since September 2021.On a month-over-month basis, CPI fell by 0.2%, compared to 0% in October and just below the market estimate of 0.1%.
Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, eased to 5.1% year-over-year in November, down from 5.7% in October and below the market estimate of 5.6%. The core rate came in at -0.3% month-over-month, down from 0.3% in October and below the market estimate of 0.2%.
The sharp drop in inflation was due to lower prices across the board, including food, fuel, transport, recreation and clothing. Inflation may be declining, but that does not mean prices are falling; rather, prices are rising less quickly. Food prices, for example rose 9.2%, which means that consumers continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis.
The sharp drop in Core CPI is a particularly encouraging sign for the Bank of England, as the core rate, which excludes items that are subject to volatility, such as food and energy is considered a better indicator of inflation trends than CPI.
The softer-than-expected inflation report comes at an interesting time, just one week after the BoE paused rates but remained hawkish about interest rate policy. Governor Andrew Bailey warned after the meeting that it was too early to speculate about rate cuts and that the BoE would continue to maintain rates in restricted territory for an extended period. The British Pound climbed sharply after Bailey’s remarks.
Will Bailey change his hawkish tune in response to today’s inflation release? At first glance the significant drop in inflation could put pressure on the BoE to cut rates, but the drop in CPI is only half of the story. The hawks at the central bank can point to Core CPI, which may be declining but at the current rate of 5.1% remains much higher than the BoE’s 2% target.
In the Forex market, the British Pound is down considerably in the aftermath of today’s inflation report. The GBP/USD currency pair is down 0.55% on Wednesday and was trading at $1.2664 during the European session.
The FTSE 100 Index, which is the benchmark index for the UK stock markets, is higher today. In the European session, the index is up 61.92 points (0.81%) at 7699.95.