Inflation eases as fuel prices fall – but cost of night out surges

Business

The rate of inflation eased to 10.7% from 11.1% last month, according to official figures showing that food and the cost of a night out continue to rise in price ahead of Christmas.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said falling motor fuel prices led the decline in the core consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation.

It reflected falling oil costs and a meaningful recovery in the value of the pound versus the dollar on which oil costs are pegged.

Overall, fuel prices rose by 17.2% in the year to November – down from 22.2% in the year to October, the ONS said.

It reported that the largest upwards contribution to the inflation number last month came from rising prices in restaurants, hotels, cafes and pubs – led by alcoholic drinks.

The ONS added that the annual rate of inflation in this particular sector of hospitality was running at its highest level since 1991, at 10.2%.

The overall CPI rate came in lower than economists had expected.

More on Cost Of Living

Many suggested we may now be past the peak, which was running at a 41-year high in October.

The cost of living crisis, however, shows little sign of easing up in any substantial way given that household energy bills are running at record levels, despite government support, amid the first cold snap of the 2022/23 winter.

The ONS said energy and food costs remained the main drivers of inflation, with food running at an annual rate of 16.4%.

A traditional Christmas dinner.
Image:
Food inflation was running at 16.4% last month ahead of the core Christmas season

The Bank of England is widely expected by economists to add to the bills of borrowers on Thursday by raising Bank rate again as part of its battle against inflation.

A hike of at least 0.5 percentage points is forecast by the bulk of experts as policymakers across the West continue to bear down on the price threats posed to their economies from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The invasion in February exacerbated the rising tide of price rises caused by economies reopening after COVID disruption, as many commodities, including food staples, widely produced in both countries soared in cost.

The cost of manufacturing goods has added to the bills substantially too because of Russia’s historic role in supplying oil and gas – now reduced to a trickle in comparison amid sanctions regimes.

The Bank of England can do nothing to bear down on these prices, but it can act to take demand out of the economy – helping prices fall back – through Bank rate increases.

It believes that the country is already in the grip of a recession, defined by two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

A contraction in the third quarter of the year – July to September – is expected to be followed by a further dip in the current October to December quarter.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt responded to the ONS price figures by declaring inflation as “the number one enemy”.

He said: “The aftershocks of COVID-19 and (Vladimir) Putin’s weaponisation of gas mean high inflation is plaguing economies across Europe and I know families and businesses are struggling here in the UK.

“Getting inflation down so people’s wages go further is my top priority, which is why we are holding down energy bills this winter through our energy price guarantee scheme and implementing a plan to help halve inflation next year.

“I know it is tough for many right now but it is vital that we take the tough decisions needed to tackle inflation – the number one enemy that makes everyone poorer.

“If we make the wrong choices now, high prices will persist and prolong the pain for millions.”

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