Tuesday 19 January 2010

UK Inflation – January 2010 Update

During my previous UK inflation entry I showed concern at what I saw in the data and predicted that inflation could very quickly get out of hand. That concern was justified today. Firstly let’s look at the data. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports the December 2009 UK Consumer Price Index (CPI) as 2.9% up from 1.9% and the UK Retail Price Index (RPI) as 2.4% up from 0.3%.

The first chart is tracking the CHAW Index which is the RPI including All Items. I focus on the RPI as my National Savings and Investments Index Linked Savings Certificates use the RPI to index from. This shows a big dip when the Bank of England dropped interest rates to historic lows however the chart shows that all the dip did was compensate for the big kick upwards that was seen from 2007. The current level of the Index has now risen above the trend line and is disturbingly starting to point more and more upwards.

The second chart is again based on the CHAW Index. This chart shows annual figures based on the previous 3, 6 and 12 month’s worth of data. As of December the 12 month figure is 2.4% (as published by the ONS) however disturbingly the 6 month figure is 4.3% and the 3 month figure is 5.0% annualised.

The Office for National Statistics reports:
“The increase in the CPI annual rate of 1.0 per cent between November and December 2009 is the largest ever increase in the annual rate between two months. This record increase is due to a number of exceptional events that took place in December 2008:
- the reduction in the standard rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 15 per cent from 17.5 per cent
- sharp falls in the price of oil
- pre-Christmas sales as a result of the economic downturn”

That explanation is all fine and well except the Bank of England knew all this months ago. Why then did they keep the Official Bank Rate at record lows and continue with plenty of Quantitative Easing which continued to devalue the GBP further forcing inflation into the system through increased import prices. Additionally, next month (January data) we get another big kick in inflation as the VAT increase back to 17.5% hits the data set.

The Bank of England meets on the 04 February. I think this meeting will be crucial and will really show their hand. Will they sell some debt that was bought through Quantitative Easing to support the GBP? Unlikely as who’s going to buy all that in addition to the regular record monthly amounts that the Debt Management Office is trying to get rid of. Will they raise the Official Bank Rate? I’ll be watching this carefully as if they don’t then I believe they will have chosen the inflation route to ease the pain. This would obviously only ease the pain on those who are in debt. That is the government and the public who on average have over extended themselves. Those prudent savers will of course be punished as the value of their assets is reduced.

All I can say is that I’m glad I own Index Linked Savings Certificates and Index Linked Gilts.

As always DYOR.

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