The Bank of England has never been further away from its legal inflation target, revealed official figures released today.
Spiralling inflation has heaped further criticism on the Bank’s decision to keep rates at record lows while UK inflation was taking off after the country emerged from the most onerous Covid-19 restrictions.
The cost of living hit its highest level in nearly 30 years in December, accelerating to 5.4 per cent, smashing the City’s expectations.
That is the hottest rate the consumer price index has reached since the Bank adopted it as its inflation targeting measure in 2003.
Former Bank rate setter, and senior advisor to Cambridge Econometrics, Andrew Sentance told City A.M. the Bank “has been slow to respond to this inflationary threat. Further interest rate rises will be needed this year and next to bring inflation back on track.”
The Bank “will be playing catch-up this year,” he added.
Threadneedle Street has a legal requirement to keep inflation at two per cent, meaning today’s figure is nearing triple that goal.
Worryingly, the Bank is unlikely to get anywhere near its legal requirement anytime soon.
Most expect the rate of price rises to hit seven per cent in April, led higher by the energy price cap adjustment taking effect.
Inflation “will stay above four per cent for all of this year and will remain above the two per cent target until April 2023,” Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, warned.
Responding to a grilling by MPs on the Treasury Committee, Bailey said the central bank will do everything “to keep inflation under control”.
The elevated inflation reading ignited a flurry of top City economists placing bets on the Old Lady hiking interest rates for the second time in as many months at its next meeting on 3 February.
James Smith, developed markets economist at ING, said: “Inflation has surprised higher (again) and that’s only likely to increase the temptation for Bank of England policymakers to hike rates for a second consecutive meeting this February.”