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UK Inflation Returns to Bank of England’s 2% Target Rate

Date Posted: 19 June, 2024

Inflation in the United Kingdom has returned to the Bank of England’s target rate of 2% for the first time in nearly three years. Official figures revealed that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI)-measured inflation fell to 2% in May, down from 2.3% the previous month. This development has been seized upon by the governing Conservative Party as evidence that their economic plan is “working” ahead of the upcoming July 4 election.

Key Points:

  1. Inflation Milestone: The decline in inflation signifies that prices are rising at a slower rate than they have in recent years. Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described it as further evidence that the “economy has now turned a corner.”
  2. Food Prices and Downward Contribution: Food prices played a significant role in the decline. However, Rachel Reeves, who would become Treasury chief if the main opposition Labour Party wins the election, pointed out that working people are still facing challenges, including higher mortgage rates and taxes at a 70-year high.
  3. Context: The last time inflation was at 2% was in July 2021 before prices surged due to supply chain issues during the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which drove up energy costs.
  4. Bank of England’s Stance: Despite this milestone, few economists expect the Bank of England to reduce its main interest rate from 5.25% immediately. Policymakers remain concerned about underlying price pressures and wage increases in the services sector, which could lead to an inflation rebound if rates are cut too soon.
  5. Election Context: During an election campaign, there is a general expectation that the Bank of England will hold the line on interest rates.
  6. Balancing Act: The Bank of England raised interest rates aggressively in late 2021 to counter high inflation. While this has helped ease inflation, it has also weighed on the British economy, which is still recovering from the pandemic. In summary, the return to the 2% inflation target is a positive sign for employers and the broader economy, but challenges remain as policymakers navigate the delicate balance between controlling inflation and supporting growth.

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