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UK Inflation Surpasses Expectations

Word of the week Wednesday, expectations surpassed by UK inflation, Rishi announces today's inflation rate release as a "major moment for the economy", and benchmark rate unchanged by Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Word of the Week Wednesday
Drachma: The Drachma is thought to be one of the worlds oldest coins and derives from the ancient Greek term “to grasp”. It’s believed that the Drachma’s value was derived from the value of a handful of arrows, or rather how many arrows could be grasped in a hand.

UK Inflation Surpasses Expectations

This morning, UK inflation came in hotter-than-expected in the latest signal that the Bank of England may be forced to maintain monetary conditions higher for longer.

Accordingly, money markets have downwardly revised their rate cut expectations form the BoE’s next monetary policy committee on 20 June. For example, during yesterday’s session money markets were implying that there was around a 50% chance of a rate cut in June, however this has now fallen to below a 15% chance. Looking further ahead, markets are pricing in two rate cuts by February.

Figures from the ONS showed the country’s consumer price index falling from 3.2% in February to 2.3% in March, against a market consensus which was forecasting inflation to fall more extensively to 2.1%. Furthermore, on a monthly basis prices rose 0.3% between March and April, against forecasts of a 0.2% print.

Here, the ONS said that “Falling gas and electricity prices resulted in the largest downward contributions to the monthly change in both CPIH and CPI annual rates, while the largest, partially offsetting, upward contribution came from motor fuels, with prices rising this year but falling a year ago.”

When excluding the volatile components of food and energy, core inflation similarly beat expectations of 3.6% with the index coming in at 3.9%, marking a more muted 30bps slowdown from last months figure. This again indicates how services inflation will continue to cause a headache for policy makers given how ‘sticky’ it is proving.

Hence, while today’s headline inflation figures marked the lowest since July 2021, the fact that it still remains above the Bank of England’s 2% target rate signals that Threadneedle Street continue to face inflationary headwinds.

Attention now turns to the Bank of England’s next monetary policy meeting on 20 June.

Reaction from No.10

While much of this morning’s reaction has centred on the monetary policy implications of inflation being higher than expected, Sunak has said that “Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal. This is proof that the plan is working and that the difficult decisions we have taken are paying off.”

Hence, while Sunak claims that “everything is heading in the right direction”, no doubt members of the MPC may well be thinking differently.

RBNZ Hold Rates for a Seventh Consecutive Time

This morning the Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept its benchmark rate unchanged at 5.5%, meeting market expectations. This marked the seventh consecutive hold as inflation continues to remain well above the central banks 1-3% target, having only subsided to 4% over the first quarter of 2024.

Here, the summary record of the meeting identified that “Members of the Committee agreed that monetary policy needs to remain restrictive to ensure inflation returns to target within the forecast timeframe.”

It also noted that “Higher long-term wholesale interest rates globally have supported wholesale interest rates in New Zealand”. This of course is indicative of how major central banks often look to adjust monetary policy in step with others.

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