Six-month inflation low expected


a man rising coins

Official figures released tomorrow are expected to show a fall in the rate of inflation to a six-month low.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics will come 24 hours before the Bank of England publishes a key report on the UK economy.

A fall in petrol prices is one of the key factors behind expectations for the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for October easing to around 2.5% from a rate of 2.7% the previous month.

The next day sees the publication of the Bank's closely-watched Inflation Report, which is designed to give an indication of the future path of interest rates, currently at an historic low of 0.5%.
Last month, policymakers revealed that unemployment was falling and the economy growing faster than predicted in its previous quarterly inflation report, so there is an expectation that these forecasts will be upgraded.

The ONS figures tomorrow will see inflation remain stubbornly above its 2% target - and continuing to squeeze incomes as the cost of living lags behind. However it is expected to carry on falling from a 2.9% high in June. The rate was 2.4% in April.

Analysts at Barclays, citing lower fuel prices, expect to see the rate fall slightly, to 2.6%, for October.

At the lower end, Scotiabank's Alan Clarke forecasts a drop to 2.4%, as slowing food inflation and a smaller contribution from university tuition fee hikes - which have impacted inflation figures since they were brought in last year - take effect.

However, the hike in energy tariffs by a number of gas and electricity suppliers looks likely to have an upward effect later in the year.

Analysts at Capital Economics also predict a sharp drop to 2.4% and CPI reaching its 2% target by the first half of next year.

Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight, predicting a 2.5% rate, also cites indications that high street retailers cut prices during October amid a bout of promotional activity and discounting.

The Bank of England's report on Wednesday will indicate its projections for inflation as well as the performance of the economy and unemployment.

Jobs data has become a key indicator of future monetary policy following the last quarterly inflation report when the Bank announced its new forward guidance policy.

The policy commits the Bank not to raise interest rates from their historic low of 0.5% before unemployment falls to 7%, as long as inflation remains under control.

Previous projections from Threadneedle Street have indicated this was unlikely to happen before at least the third quarter of 2016.

However, markets expect these conditions to be met sooner and have pencilled in an interest rate rise for at least a year earlier - though policymakers have been at pains to stress reaching the 7% threshold will not be an automatic trigger for a rates hike.

Nevertheless, new Bank forecasts that are more in line with those of markets will be seen as an indication of an earlier rise in interest rates.

Their release will be complicated by the fact the ONS jobs data is being published at the same time, with some economists predicting a drop in the unemployment rate from 7.7% to 7.6%.

Meanwhile, any fall in inflation predictions in the Bank's inflation report should ease fears that it will rise to a level where it would provide a so-called "knock-out" to the low interest rate policy.