Inflation fears amid higher food and energy costs

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INFLATION fears will be stoked this week amid a spike in energy costs and rising food prices, reducing the scope for further intervention from the Bank of England (BoE).

Analysts believe that reduced discounting by retailers compared to a year ago will also have had some upward impact on prices.

Official figures, due on Tuesday, are likely to show consumer price inflation (CPI) hovering around the 3 per cent mark in March, which would be a rise on the 2.8 per cent recorded for February. It is a long way off the 34-month low of 2.2 per cent hit in September and the central bank’s 2 per cent target.

Minutes of the BoE’s latest monetary policy committee meeting – also published this week – are tipped to reveal another six-to-three split vote against embarking on further quantitative easing (QE). Inflation remains a concern for a number of policymakers.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at think-tank IHS Global Insight, said that even if CPI did not hit 3 per cent in March, it was likely to push “modestly above” that level during the second quarter.

“Sterling’s weakness, still-
elevated food prices and higher energy charges will maintain upward pressure on inflation,” Archer said. “Inflation could start to head down gradually late in 2013, helped by the impact of the sharp rise in university tuition fees dropping out in October.”

Archer added that the BoE was expected to deliver two further £25 billion bouts of QE over the coming months, taking the total stock of money printing to £425bn.

A poll of more than 50 economists last week concluded that there was a 60 per cent chance of additional QE this year, with the majority expecting it to come soon.

Michael Saunders at Citi said: “I’m flexible as to when they move. It will be whatever month they get softer data. It could be May… it could be July if they wait for Mark Carney [the incoming Bank of England governor].”