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UK inflation sees surprise jump to 2.6%

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UK CPI inflation has risen to 2.6% in July, up from 2.4% in June, surprising economists who had expected a fall to 2.3%.

The Office for National Statistics said transport, clothing and footwear drove the increase, which may serve to mute expectations for further stimulus from the Bank of England in the immediate future.

RPI rose from 2.8% to 3.2% over the same period, the ONS said, reversing the fall from 3.1% seen last month.

The figures come after the price of Brent crude oil hit a three-month high of $115 a barrel yesterday, a sign input costs may be set to rise again.

Having been as high as 5.2% last September, CPI inflation came in at 2.4% in June, the lowest level since November 2009’s 1.9% figure and down from 2.8% in May.

That month-on-month fall had also surprised economists, who attributed much of the drop to retailers undertaking summer discounting earlier than usual.

“As such, this morning’s data may give a clearer indication of the underlying inflationary trend,” Barclays analysts said ahead of the release of this morning’s data.

The Bank of England has previously forecast that inflation would fall to around 2.1% in the final quarter of 2012, but then might rise slightly before averaging below the 2% target from late 2013 onwards.

Capital Economics, meanwhile, expects UK CPI inflation to stand at around 1% by December, as energy price increases fall out of the index and core inflation drops sharply.

“Admittedly, the near-term outlook for inflation has worsened slightly on the back of the renewed rise in petrol prices and the rise in agricultural prices. But despite these factors, inflation still looks likely to drop below its 2% target within the next two or three months,” said Capital’s chief UK economist Vicky Redwood.

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