Liz Saville Roberts clashes with PM over inflation
US inflation fell to a 15-month low of just three percent in June, raising hopes that today’s inflationary nightmare will soon draw to a close. Unfortunately, UK prices are proving a far tougher nut to crack.
Inflation was still shockingly high in May at 8.7 percent, forcing the Bank of England to hike interest rates by 50 basis points to five percent in its losing battle to cool the economy.
This has driven up mortgage rates for millions as their existing fixed rates expire. Their monthly repayments will rise by about £392 a month on average to £1,866, according to broker London Money.
That’s an extra £4,704 a year, on top of all the other price rises.
Two-year fixed rate mortgages now charge 6.6 percent and if that persists we could see a full-blown house price crash. Prices fell just 2.6 percent in the year to June, according to Halifax, but will slide further as mortgage costs rise, transactions slow and buyers lose their nerve.
In a rare positive, higher interest rates are great news for savers, with best buy savings accounts paying more than six percent.
But that’s still below inflation so the value of cash continues to shrink in real terms.
With the UK economy shrinking 0.1 percent in May we need the current nightmare to end but consensus suggests June’s figure will still come in above eight percent.
That will be a real blow and the BoE will no doubt hike base rates in August as a result, possibly to 5.5 percent.
There may be better news next month, though, as last year’s rocketing energy costs drop out of July’s inflation figure.
If inflation isn’t on the run then, we’re in even deeper trouble.
Inflation is particularly sticky in the UK because we are so dependent on imported food and energy, leaving us vulnerable to rocketing global commodity prices.
Brexit has played a part by pushing up salaries as EU worker numbers fall, although many will see higher pay as a positive.
Wages rose 7.3 percent in the three months to the end of May, offering some respite, but unemployment has crept up slightly to four percent.
The UK has done well to avoid a recession so far, said Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot. “How long this can continue as interest rates climb higher remains to be seen.”
Markets currently predict interest rates will peak at 6.5 percent as the BoE scrambles to make up for past mistakes. “There is a danger the Bank will over tighten and make the economy worse,” Carter warned.
Last week, BoE governor Andrew Bailey offered some hope by predicting inflation will fall “markedly” over the remainder of the year, as last year’s energy price hikes drop out of the annual calculation and food prices feed through to the shops.
The BoE reckons inflation will drop to five percent by year end but its forecasts can’t be relied upon. It previously said four percent.
Bailey has called inflation wrong again and again, and made a heap of other mistakes, too.
Whether households can hold on until inflation falls is a moot point, said Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor. “Millions of households have been pushed to breaking point and rising mortgage rates will make things worse.”
READ MORE: State pension to hit inflation-busting £11,373 as wages beat prices
We got a taster of better times as the drop in US inflation put a rocket under UK shares last Wednesday.
The FTSE 100 enjoyed its biggest one-day increase of the year, jumping 1.8 percent with further rises on Thursday, boosting the value of the nation’s pensions and stocks and shares Isas.
Markets are in a sweet spot today but investors may need to be patient, warns Tom Stevenson, investment director at Fidelity International. “The central assumption is that interest rates will go quite a bit higher. So, it might be a longer wait than people think.”
Savers should make the most of today’s rocketing interest rates, which see SmartSave’s one-year fixed rate bond paying 6.10 percent, rising to 6.15 percent a year for two years.
Five-year fixed-rate bonds pay slightly less today but could prove an exciting opportunity, as United Trust Bank pays 5.76 percent right through to 2028.
With any luck, today’s raging price growth could be a fading memory by then, giving savers an inflation-busting return.
Let’s hope inflation falls faster than expected on Wednesday.
Sadly, it won’t mean things are actually getting cheaper. Just more expensive at a slower pace.
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