UK inflation comes in at 3.1 percent, highest since March 2012

Key Points
  • This puts consumer prices for November up 0.1 percent from October's CPI rate of 3 percent, itself a five-and-half year high
Two men dressed as Santa Claus walk amongst shoppers on Oxford Street on December 9, 2017 in London, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images

The U.K. inflation rate has increased to 3.1 percent, its highest level since March 2012, according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released Tuesday.

This puts consumer prices for November up 0.1 percentage points from October's consumer price index (CPI) rate of 3 percent, which was itself a five-and-a-half year high.

The new figures are in line with the Bank of England's (BoE) expectations that inflation would peak at just over 3.0 percent before the end of this year.

"It would be helpful for economic growth going forward if inflation is close to peaking," Lee Hardman, currency analyst at MUFG, said in an email note.

"The largest upward contribution to the rate change came from airfares, which fell between October and November, but by less than a year ago," the ONS wrote. The spike in inflation also responded in part to a fall in the pound over several weeks of tumultuous Brexit talks.

"CPI inflation edged above 3 percent for the first time in nearly six years with the price of computer games rising and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year. These upward pressures were partially offset by falling costs of computer equipment," Mike Prestwood, head of inflation for ONS, said.

British consumers have been feeling the price growth, with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warning in November that consumers would face a pricey Christmas dinner this year. In October, prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages climbed to 4.1 percent, the highest since September 2013.

While the BoE raised interest rates in November over inflation concerns, inflation is set to stay above the target 2 percent rate throughout 2018.

BoE Governor Mark Carney must now write a letter to U.K. Chancellor Phillip Hammond explaining why inflation has exceeded one percentage point higher than the bank's target rate of 2 percent.

"The annual headline inflation rate has risen to well above the BoE's mandated target of 2 percent since the Brexit vote in June 2016," said Kallum Pickering, senior U.K. economist at Berenberg.

"The dramatic fall in trade-weighted sterling, reflecting markets' lowered expectations for long term U.K. growth, has caused a temporary surge in import price growth. While the Brexit vote inflation surge will gradually fade from here on, underlying inflationary pressures are likely to continue to build over time without modestly tighter monetary policy."

Looking ahead, the bank's Monetary Police Committee (MPC) policy announcement during an upcoming meeting Thursday is expected to keep central bank interest rates unchanged, but the remaining question is whether it will suggest further hikes in the near future.