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UK inflation hit a new high of 7 per cent in March, as the cost of living crisis continues.

The consumer prices index rose by 7 per cent in the 12 months to March 2022, up from 6.2 per cent in February, which exceeded the expectations of Reuters' economists, who had predicted a 6.7 per cent rise.

The rate was impacted by rising prices of fuel, second hand cars, clothing and footwear and furniture, according to the Office for National Statistics

This does not include the hike in energy prices seen earlier this month with the raise of the energy price cap.

Inflation has now surged ahead of the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target each month since May last year.

In March the central bank increased interest rates to 0.75 per cent in an attempt to curb rising prices.

Adrian Lowery, personal finance expert at investing platform Bestinvest, said if inflation continues to overshoot expectation, the pressure will only grow on the Bank of England to give more consideration to the medium-term path of inflation, over the possible drags on the real economy caused by higher rates.

The danger is that as inflation expectations rise, so do wage demands and bargaining power, he said, and that could entrench what is hoped to be a short-to-medium term spike in inflation into a medium-to-long term problem. 

“While the monetary policy committee has the flexibility to bring inflation gradually back down to target in a year or two’s time – the central projection for 2 per cent forecast to be met the end of 2023 in the monetary policy committee's February report - it’s questionable how such projections can be viewed with any confidence given the febrile economic conditions.”

Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor, said over the next few months, evidence of people failing to cope with price rises is likely to emerge.

“This kind of inflation leaves people living on a wing and a prayer. 

“Any efforts people can make to preserve their savings and keep contributing towards their long term goals will be worth it in the long run.”

Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst, said there was "no way to sugar coat what’s happening to prices".

She said: "Pretty much everything is significantly more expensive than it was a year ago and there is every indication the situation is just going to get worse.

“I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that the price at the pump played a huge part in the March story, petrol prices were up by more than 12p a litre in a single month, diesel by more than 18p. Motorists winced every time they had to fill up their vehicles and the chancellor’s duty cut has done little to soothe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has clearly played a part as real sanctions or those self-imposed, disrupted supply of oil and sent the price of a barrel of the black stuff soaring."

But Hewson warned this was just a taste of what is to come.

She added: "The next set of inflation figures will reflect the shock most households have been feeling when they’ve taken a look at their new energy bill. And taking a look at the latest Producer Price Index figures there is unlikely to be any respite pretty much anywhere else. Input prices have surged by almost 20 per cent, and if you’re keeping a tally, yes that is the highest number since records began.

"What’s coming out of the factory gates, the goods produced seem positively cheap by comparison but be in no doubt the near 12 per cent hike will just add to the misery being faced by households and businesses right across the country.

“There are no quick fixes, no magic wand to be waved. Everybody is going to feel poorer as wages, pensions and benefits all fail to keep up. But most people also understand that those with the least will be hardest hit because for some people cutting back is simply not an option."

source FTAdviser 13/4/2022

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