Surprise fall in inflation cuts interest rate pressure
New data showing a rise in inflation of just 4 per cent last month came as a shock to economists, who expected that the cost of living – measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – would increase again, as it has done for nine months. The index stood at 4.4 per cent in February.
The falling cost of food and drink was the main driver of the lower CPI, the Office for National Statistics’ figures revealed.
The price paid for products including fruit, bread and cereals, slumped as supermarkets and grocery shops slashed costs amid falling consumer confidence in the wake of looming public sector job cuts and tax changes announced in the Budget.
Lower-than-expected inflation will weaken the prospect of an interest rate rise – which will come as welcome news for Scotland’s home-owners, but a disappointment for those with healthy balances in their savings accounts, who were hoping rates would begin an upturn.
Members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) have recently come under increasing pressure to raise interest rates – which have remained at 0.5 per cent for 25 months in an effort to kick-start the country’s flagging economy.