Inflation rises to its highest in two years as weak sterling takes its toll

Emma Haslett
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Food prices dipped, but everything else increased (Source: Getty)

The UK's inflation rate rose to 1.2 per cent in the year to November, up from 0.9 per cent in October - and beating expectations of 1.1 per cent. That puts it at the highest rate since October 2014, when it was 1.3 per cent.

The rise was driven by hikes in clothing prices, motor fuels and a "variety of cultural goods and services", according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, food and non-alcoholic beverages pulled inflation down.

The ONS said it was the first time since mid-2014 that all non-food categories had an upward effect on inflation.

Meanwhile, core inflation rose 1.4 per cent, against estimates of 1.3 per cent.

Although sterling began to climb in November after a steep fall following the Brexit vote, ONS inflation chief Mike Prestwood said it wasn't enough.

"November's slight rally in the value of sterling eased the inflationary pressure on businesses importing raw materials but consumer prices continued to edge upwards, due mainly to the rising cost of clothing and fuel."

Oil price woes

Inflation is likely to keep rising after the world's major oil producers agreed to cap production.

Yesterday Brent crude prices shot up above $57 after the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and 11 non-Opec producers agreed to cut production by 558,000 barrels per day in an attempt to curtail the heavily over-supplied market.

That came shortly after Opec's own members agreed to a cut - the first such deal since 2008.

Crude oil was the biggest contributor to inflation in November, contributing 2.9 per cent to the increase.

Bank of England tolerance

The Bank of England has a target of two per cent inflation, although economists have predicted that weak sterling will push it to three per cent next year.

However, analysts suggested governor Mark Carney is unlikely to react to today's news.

"Given the upward pressure on inflation, the BoE’s move towards a more neutral policy stance is understandable given that it has indicated that its patience for inflation to overshoot the two per cent CPI target is limited," said Shilen Shah, strategist at Investec Wealth & Investment.

"From here we see inflation continuing to ascend robustly through 2017 and we judge that we are only really at the start of seeing the effect of the pound’s fall feed through," added Victoria Clarke, of Investec.

"The Monetary Policy Committee is meeting to discuss its latest monetary policy announcement this week. In light of the additional information available in today’s CPI releases, markets will no doubt be looking for guidance on whether the Monetary Policy Committee remains happy with its neutral policy stance and whether it provides any update on the risks around its current central view of inflation’s path ahead.

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