Official figures show inflation down from 6.7% in September
UK inflation declined sharply in October, falling to an annualised rate of 4.6% from 6.7% in September, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The drop in housing prices was the largest contribution to the fall in inflation, contributing 1.6 percentage points to the 2.1 percentage point decline.
The ONS reported that the drop had been the lowest since records began in January 1950.
The fall in housing costs came largely from the government’s energy price gap fall in Ofgem’s energy price cap in October, which saw energy prices for households reduce.
Other smaller contributors to the drop included a decline in food prices (0.2 percentage points), its lowest level since June 2022, and the cost of restaurants and hotels (0.1 percentage points).
Despite the dramatic fall, UK inflation remained above major economies like the US (3.2%), Germany (3%) and France (4.5%) in October.
Meanwhile, core inflation, which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, rose by 5.7%, down from 6.1% in September and its peak of 7.1% in May.
JP Morgan Asset Management global market strategist Hugh Gimber said that the weakness in core inflation “will be more significant” for the Bank of England than the drop in the headline figures.
“The drag lower from energy base effects as last year’s changes to the price cap fall out of the numbers has been long awaited, and well understood,” he explained.
“It is more important, is to see some of the stickier parts of the inflation basket cooling more quickly than previously forecasted.”
Gimber said the data lent further support to the BoE’s recent commentary that interest rates have now reached sufficiently high levels to slow the economy down.
“But importantly, the BoE is working to an inflation target of 2%, not sub 5%,” he added.
“The case against any further rate hikes is increasingly clear, but significantly more evidence will be required before rate cuts can start to be considered.”
Quilter Investors investment strategist Lindsay James added that the drop had been “predominantly driven by factors that look unlikely to be repeated in the months ahead”, pointing to the energy price cap reduction.
“Food appears to be seeing more consistent reductions,” she said, noting this was the seventh month of falling annual inflation readings.
However, James agreed with Gimber that the BoE will want to see “more evidence of slowing inflation across the economy, rather than it coming primarily from fluctuations in international energy markets”.
As core inflation is falling more gradually than headline inflation, “it is clear that further progress towards the target of 2% is likely to be relatively slow,” she said.
My Pension Expert policy director Lily Megson commented: “While Rishi Sunak may pat himself on the back for nearing his target of halving inflation to 5%, the reality is that households continue to grapple with serious economic challenges. Ultimately, the cost of living is still rising, which throws into question how people are able to spend, save and invest their hard-earned money.
“There’s a pressing need for more robust support for those approaching or in retirement. If not, we will continue to see the worrying trend of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s either delaying their retirement, or unretiring to top up their pension pots.
“We have to hope that next week’s Autumn Statement provides clear, decisive actions to address the financial concerns of pension planners across the UK, and improving access to regulated, affordable advice must be central to this. Knowledge is power, and providing better access to advice will empower consumers to navigate the economic landscape far more effectively.”
Elliot Gulliver-Needham (Professional Adviser)