A surge in UK inflation sparks a pound rally, but global indices falter amid geopolitical tensions. Stay informed on market shifts.
In a surprising turn of events, the United Kingdom’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) has surged, surpassing expectations and causing a surge in the value of the pound sterling. The headline measure of inflation rose from 3.9% to 4.0% in December, while the core measure, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, remained at 5.1%, beating the forecast of 4.9%.
Alcohol and tobacco emerged as the major contributors to the year-on-year rise, with prices in these categories experiencing a significant uptick. Notably, the increased tobacco duty announced in the UK government’s Autumn Statement played a key role in the higher prices observed.
Surprise Surge in UK Inflation Boosts Pound Sterling
Despite the spike in December inflation, analysts suggest that temporary factors primarily drive the surge. The overall trend in the component categories making up the headline and core CPI figures does not indicate a broad-based increase, signaling continued progress in achieving the Bank of England’s target of 2% inflation. While energy costs have been declining, a temporary rise is possible if security concerns in the Red Sea shipping route persist, potentially impacting fuel and gas prices.
Geopolitical tensions, particularly the recent attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea, have raised concerns, with Shell announcing a halt in all shipping via the Red Sea. This move has fueled apprehensions about potential delays and subsequent increases in energy prices.
The Bank of England remains focused on addressing services inflation, with a watchful eye on the overall flattening out of services inflation, as well as headline and core measures. Despite a recent decline in average earnings figures, they remain elevated.
In response to the heightened inflation figures, the pound sterling experienced a boost in value, marking a notable shift in what has been a week dominated by UK-centric economic data. Conversely, the FTSE initially opened lower, reflecting global trends as indices taper off amid rising geopolitical tensions. Expectations around interest rate cuts for 2024 are cooling, reducing bullish support for riskier equity markets. Investors eagerly await US retail sales data for the festive December period and insights from several Federal Reserve speakers. The outcomes of these events are poised to shape market dynamics further in the coming days.