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More inflation to come?

Andrew Neil | 10:42 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Pretty grim set of economic stats on the eve of Chancellor Osborne's second Budget.

First, public borrowing was £11.8 billion in February, the highest borrowing for that month since records began and £2.3 billion higher than February last year. Tax revenues are more buoyant than expected but for a government committed to borrowing a lot less these figures show the heavy lifting hasn't even started.

Second, inflation as measured by the RPI, which is used as the basis of many a wage negotiation, rose to 5.5% last month from 5.1% in January. This is much more than expected. Even the more modest CPI, the government's preferred measure, rose to 4.4%.

At a time when most folks' pay is either static or falling in real terms, these inflation figures mean only one thing: a further squeeze on living standards, especially with January's rise in Vat and April's rise in National Insurance.

They also mean interest rates are more likely than ever to rise this year. The markets certainly think so: sterling jumped against the dollar this morning, trading at $1.6359 in the immediate aftermath of the data.

The markets also think there's more inflation to come: bonds fell, with the yield on the 10-year gilt rising 8 basis points to 3.61% as investors demanded higher yields to compensate for higher inflation.

According to Eurostat data out today, we now have the worst inflation in Western Europe, having overtaken Greece (now at 4.2% CPI). Only Romania, Estonia and Bulgaria in the EU have higher inflation than the UK.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think that you are right to be concerned about these numbers Andrew. Perhaps the Bank of England should be more concerned as events keep failing to behave as they told us. As time has passed I have been following the economist Shaun Richards who points this out today.

    "If we for a moment look at our old inflation target of RPI-X we can see that it is indicating an even larger problem than that shown by the current measure. It was targetted to be 2.5% and today it is at 5.5% which is 3% over what was its target. I have long argued that it is a superior measure to Consumer Price Inflation and therefore it means that our inflation problem is worse than the already poor headline figure."

    I enjoyed his policy prescription too which would certainly spread democracy...

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 3.

    The result of Mr Browns QE experiment perhaps? Keynsian economics on display.

  • Comment number 4.

    Truth is that for those who can afford little more than the basics - food, fuel & energy - inflation is in double figures. Those least equipped to handle this are hit the hardest; the double whammy being that of course, if part of your income is from savings, you are even worse off.

    Thanks Gordon. Thanks Ed. Gurning idiots, both of them.

  • Comment number 5.

    What happened to the big society bank, we Need BoB, the Bank of Britain to take over where the PRIVATE Bank of England failed. WHO owns it ????
    Public bodies, schools, hospitals , councils etc are paying BILLIONS in bank charges......
    That money is our money. It should be invested in local businesses not magic money making schemes like the Iceland fiasco.

  • Comment number 6.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 7.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 8.

    When should Mervyn King actually realsie that the game is up and that he must resign to restore some confidence in the role of the Bank of England. It is very interesting that the financial institutions which got us into this sorry state should be Scottish, namely Bank of Scotland, and Royal Bank of Scotland. We should also not forget the role which certain employees of the Nat West Bank, part of RBS got us into with their connections to Enron.

    Anybody who fails to see the connection between Nat West, Coutts, the alleged bankers to the Queen and other members of the Royal family, and the collapse of RBS is living in cloud cuckoo land.

  • Comment number 9.

    The worst thing which the Chancellor can do is to put even more money into the hands of the poor, and the elderly. Why this apparently perverse comment, because it will be almost certainly spent by these people, they will not save, it will go straight into the economy, and when a wall of money hits the market then there will be inflation, even worse and even more catastrohic. There is another conundrum, which is that when the effects of tax rises are taken out of the economy, then very soon we will have deflation, which could be seen as being great for those in a job, and the poor, but to live in an economy with deflation is even worse than inflation. The more I write this the more depressed I get, this is just so depressing.

    With the continued repercussions of our faiuled involvement in foreign wars, and the 1987 crash, then we are in a whole knew ball game. I don't know Andrew, I wish that I knew nothing, that I had no historical knowledge, no idea about politics, philosophy or economics, maybe I should have remained totally ignorant. Some person in the past has surely thought that to educate the masses would be a disaster for the country, best to have stayed ignorant. Can I please lose my memory, oh that's right, I could always suffer from forgetfulness as I get older.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good Morning Andrew,

    I fear the worst from the BBC, with their constraints on fee income and the inflation which you refer to.

    Now for us sports fans, especially football, the BBC have already disposed of the ability to be able to comment on your team, via 606, and I wonder for how the BBC will be able to justify blogs like yours which are moderated, because how much does the moderation cost. People must be employed, because nothing is for free. I refer to a piece now appearing in one of the daily newspapers:

    'Mr Thompson promised that Question Time, Newsnight and Andrew Neil's This Week would be protected – although the Sunday lunchtime Politics Show could be merged with Andrew Marr's BBC1 interview programme'.

    Can we but hope that the polticians will not get their revenge for 'expenses' by driving politics completely off the agenda, nobody wanting to be scrutinised, all to save money of course.

    I live in Devon, and from the 1st April 2011 charges will apply at all Devon County Council Recycling Centres for the disposal of various waste types, soil/rubble, sheets of plasterboard, tyres, and asbestos, with £2 minimum charges, or £7, or even £20 for the various types. Now how is this measured by the ONS, if we now have to pay for something which was 'free' is that not inflationary. How is that measured.

    We have seen how we pay slightly more for products now smaller in scale, or size, and how is this measured. Inflation is out of control, and I hope that it is not programmes like yours which suffer, everything is doom and gloom, and no marriage is going to save us, this is beyond a joke.

  • Comment number 11.

    It would be refreshing if we learned something from these cycles of overspending and restraint and I include both the electorate and governments in this.

    There is something peculiar about the British psyche that money burns a hole in its pocket, we have to have shows of wealth bigger houses, more and bigger cars fuelled by credit on the assumption that the good times will go on forever, then we struggle to come to terms with the inevitable downturn, always looking for someone else to blame.

    Brown's no more boom and bust would have been a fine legacy if it had been achievable but Brown, like others, was loathe to implement the unpopular measures which were necessary to bring back some balance to the economy.

    The current inflationary pressures are not necessarily consumer driven, commodity prices are being driven up by the demand from the Asian tigers, rising oil prices affect costs across the board and additionally QE may be partly responsible for the increase inflation. It is a complex situation and inflation may well be something we have to live with as there is no appetite for increasing interest rates, despite the benefits for savers and those dependent on investment interest.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good evening each & Andrew.

    We're saved!

    George, in the crows-nest, sees smoke on the horizon. It is bound to be heading this way, George thinks so. ...He wishes it so, (which is as much as he will say) and captain Dave agrees. They both wish it.
    In any case, the rationing measures arranged by ex-captain Gordon, are to be set aside. Instead we shall be less hungry, we still won't eat, but we will be less hungry. Not for us the counting and recounting of the few biscuits to hand, but we are to fix our gaze upon the biscuit-barrels instead. "Roll out those bar..."
    Midshipman Ed (and his alter ego ship-midman Ed) took a deep breath and spoke earnestly of the good old days and the promise they held for us all. Alas his wishes were fishes and escaped the hook, but what immense fish they were and no mistake. "Water, water everywhere, but not a fish in sight..."
    So...it is with the tacit agreement of all aboard HMS Westminster smoke is on the way and all hands have set to and stand ready to man the mirrors. British mirrors, British mirrors upon which, at one time, the Sun never set. The Sun though, this time, is in the picture, fully behind us. That the wind beats steadily upon our faces is a good thing...for it shall blow the smoke our way. We are ready for that smoke, we stand ready for the promise of the smoke.
    One question and only one question remains...
    "How many safe seats are there to the Enterprise Zone?" The truth is out there...


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