October saw a significant decrease in headline inflation in the United Kingdom, mainly due to base effects from energy prices. While core inflation also declined more than expected by the Bank of England, these figures are not enough to prompt the central bank to consider rate cuts. With inflation and wage growth remaining high, the path to the BoE’s 2% inflation target will require sustained restrictive policy settings for the coming year.
CPI inflation dropped to 4.6% year-on-year in October, a notable 2.1% point decline from September. This was in line with expectations, as Ofgem made regulatory adjustments to energy prices in October of the previous year. The most significant contributor to the drop was household energy prices, resulting in a correction of -1.9% month-on-month in the housing and household services index. Gas prices experienced their most substantial year-on-year decline since records began in 1989, plummeting by -31%.
Food price inflation also slowed down, standing at 10.1% year-on-year in October compared to 12.1% in the previous month. Chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed credit for the decline, attributing it to his commitment to halving inflation and the impact of prudent budget policies.
Despite the apparent drop in inflation, much of this decline is a result of base effects from supply shocks experienced in the first three quarters of 2022. Steering inflation toward the target will become more challenging from this point forward. Consumers face challenges, particularly with owner-occupiers’ housing costs experiencing a sharp rise. The overall price level in the UK remains more than 16% higher than in October 2021, intensifying the pressure on household incomes.
Core and services price inflation now surpass the headline rate, and recent wage growth exceeds expectations. The labor market, despite showing signs of relaxation, remains more resilient than initially anticipated. Unemployment appears to stabilize, but reports indicate a softer fall in permanent staff appointments and a growing pool of candidates. Starting salary inflation continues to decelerate, reaching a 31-month low.
The latest data supports the view that inflation has peaked and is likely to trend lower, suggesting that rates may have reached their highest point. BoE Chief Economist Pill’s cautionary remarks ahead of the CPI release signal a lingering risk of persistent inflation. The official stance emphasizes the necessity for ongoing restrictive policy measures without committing to a specific timeframe.
In conclusion, while October’s inflation figures present a mixed picture of positive declines and lingering challenges, the path forward necessitates a delicate balance of policy measures to sustain economic stability amid shifting dynamics.