UK inflation rate remains at 2.3%

Aeroplane

Image caption

Air fares were affected by the timing of Easter

UK inflation held steady last month, as rising prices for food and clothing were offset by lower air fares.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index remained at 2.3%.

Inflation has been accelerating in recent months, partly as a result of the fall in the pound after the Brexit vote, which has raised import prices.

Air fares fell last month, in contrast to a big increase a year earlier when Easter fell in March.

In March last year, airfares rose by 20% as travel costs rose amid higher demand at Easter. However, as Easter falls in April this year, economists are expecting this to add to pressure on inflation this month.

As well as air fares, fuel prices also had a downward impact on inflation, as the prices paid by motorists at the pump fell slightly.

The biggest upward impact on inflation came from food and non-alcoholic drinks, where prices rose by 0.4% in March from the month before, compared with a 0.6% fall a year earlier.

Spending squeeze

Food prices in March were 1.2% higher than last year, the biggest annual rise in three years.

ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said: “Food, drink and clothing prices all rose in March.

“However, this is offset by air fares, which fell slightly but last year rose substantially thanks to the timing of Easter.

“The costs of raw materials and the price of manufactured goods leaving factories were both little changed, as falling fuel prices helped stem further rises.”

Earlier on Monday, a survey by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG earlier on Monday suggested consumers were reining back spending in the face of rising food prices.

Total spending on non-food items fell by 0.8% in the January-to-March period, the survey found, which was the weakest three-month performance for nearly six years.

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