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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Inflation rises again but long-term pressures remain absent

Consumer price inflation in the UK increased to 2.9% in August after falling to 2.6% June and stabilising in July, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics today.

Inflation at five-year high ©Shutterstock

This is now the joint highest rate in more than five years, with rising prices for clothing and motor fuels the main contributors to the latest increase.

Inflation rose in both Britain and the EU overall, with increasing global commodity prices thought to be partly responsible, although the UK rate is higher than in all the larger western European nations.

However, Hargreaves Lansdown senior economist, Ben Brettell, believes that demographic changes could mean today’s rate may be the highest we see in the current cycle.

“Baby boomers are retiring in their droves,” he said. “They have already gone through their consumption phase – they have bought their houses, cars and consumer goods.”

“The generation behind them is saddled with debt and struggling to get on the housing ladder. All in all, I see more deflationary forces than inflationary in the world economy at present.”

He went on to say that this is likely to mean the Bank of England will keep interest rates on hold at a meeting later this week, allowing them to “remove the sticking plaster of ultra-low interest rates as slowly as they like”.

It is instead next month’s inflationary figures that will be of most interest to pensioners, according to Barnett Waddingham senior consultant, Malcolm McLean.

He explains that the September numbers used to determine the annual increases in pension and benefit levels are likely to exceed both wage inflation, currently running at 2.1%, and the 2.5% underpin used for the triple lock.

“It is also interesting to note that the Retail Prices Index (RPI) 12-month rate in August 2017 was 3.9% - good news for members of occupational schemes with RPI ‘hard-wired’ into their scheme rules and those people with annuities providing RPI-based increases,” he added.

Many will now be looking to tomorrow’s labour market data on wage growth, which is expected to climb to 2.2%, meaning that real wages are still shrinking, and inevitably raising further questions about the cost of living squeeze.

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