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Inflation hits 30-year high as cost of living crisis bites

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 5.5% in the 12 months to January 2022, up from 5.4% in December 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The rate is the highest since March 1992 when it stood at 7.1%, and up from 5.4% in December.

The inflation rate was in line with economists’ expectations as the price of clothes, shoes, furniture and household bills all surged. These were partially offset by large downward contributions from restaurants, hotels and transport.

The CPI including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) rose by 4.9% in the 12 months to January 2022, up from 4.8% in the 12 months to December 2021. Given that the owner occupiers’ housing costs component accounts for around 17% of the CPIH, it is the main driver for differences between the CPIH and CPI inflation rates.

Housing and household services contributed 1.37 percentage points to the 12-month inflation rate in January 2022, which is the largest contribution from any division this month.

The ONS said this was a result of price rises for gas and electricity following the increase in the cap on energy prices, which changed on 1 October 2021.

While wages are also rising – with average pay (including bonuses) up 4.3% in the final quarter of 2021 – earnings rises are lagging inflation.

Derrick Dunne, CEO of YOU Asset Management, said: “This is in fact the fourth consecutive month that inflation has exceeded forecasts, and by all accounts it won’t stop here. Economists still expect the reading to peak above 7% in the coming months, and so today’s surprise increase only underlines the challenge facing monetary policymakers.

“The Bank of England has already begun what will likely become an unprecedented series of interest rate hikes, but with inflation still outstripping wage growth and a cost-of-living crisis raging, even more aggressive action may be needed to cool red-hot price growth.

Jason Hollands, managing director of BestInvest, said: “A key message to savers and investors is that beating inflation should be a key objective – that is no mean feat when the Bank of England forecasts inflation to rise to 7% by easter. Standing still means you are getting worse off in this environment as inflation gnaws away at the spending power of your wealth. When inflation is factored in, cash returns are deeply negative, as are government bond yields with 10-year gilts currently yielding 1.58%.

“I would urge people to think about whether they have the right balance between cash savings and longer-term investments. While it is very wise to keep a cash buffer for short-term needs and emergencies, holding too much cash for long periods of time will see the real value of this wealth eaten away by inflation.”

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