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Rate of inflation eases to 3.4% in February, official figures show | Business News

The rate of inflation slowed sharply to an annual rate of 3.4% in February, according to official figures charting a big contribution from food costs.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed an easing in the headline measure from the 4% rate recorded the previous month to a level last seen almost two-and-a-half years ago.

It was led, the report said, by food prices being almost flat this year compared with a large rise last year, while restaurant and café price rises also slowed.

Money latest: Reaction as UK inflation eases by more than expected

“These falls were only partially offset by price rises at the (fuel) pump and a further increase in rental costs,” ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner said.

The data marks further progress in the battle against energy-led price growth that followed Russia’s war in Ukraine and inflation is forecast to fall back below the Bank of England‘s target rate of 2% in the next few months.

However, the Bank’s interest rate-setting committee is widely expected to hold off on removing the medicine it has dished out to tackle inflation, possibly until the summer.

Its latest rate decision is due on Thursday.

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Will the UK come out of recession?

Interest rate cuts would provide relief to millions of borrowers who have faced hefty increases to their costs as a consequence of higher interest rates.

But committee members are wary of starting the process as it’s feared inflation may tick back up in the second half of the year.

While there was some comfort in the latest data from core inflation figures, which strip out volatile elements such as food and energy costs, they are waiting for visibility on many price pressures including the pace of wage growth, disruption to shipping in the Red Sea and rising global oil costs.

Regular pay rises, according to separate ONS data last week, were still running above 6% – a level that could help drive demand in the flatlining economy and force up the pace of price increases.

Brent crude oil costs hit levels not seen since October last year earlier this week at $87 per barrel.

Interest rate cuts would help put more money back in people’s pockets over time, boosting the economy which officially entered recession in the second half of last year.

The economy is predicted to be the main battleground in the looming election so the timing of such action, by the politically neutral Bank, could be crucial.

LSEG data suggests the market expects the first cut to come in June but there is a growing school of thought that inflation may remain stickier than expected by that time, leaving August more in the frame.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said of the inflation data: “The plan is working. Inflation has not just fallen decisively but is forecast to hit the 2% target within months.

“This sets the scene for better economic conditions which could allow further progress on our ambition to boost growth and make work pay by bringing down national insurance as we work towards abolishing the double tax on work – but only if we can do so without increasing borrowing or cutting funding for public services.”

Thousands of university staff to strike for 18 days between February and March | UK News

Full list of UK universities affected by upcoming UCU strike

Aberdeen, The University of

Abertay University

Aberystwyth University

Anglia Ruskin University

Arts University Bournemouth

Aston University

Bangor University

Bath Spa University

Bath, University of

Bedfordshire, University of

Birkbeck, University of London

Birmingham City University

Birmingham, The University of

Bishop Grosseteste University

Bolton, The University of

Bournemouth University

Bradford, University of

Brighton, University of

Bristol, University of

Brunel University

Buckinghamshire New University

Cambridge, University of

Canterbury Christ Church University

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Cardiff University

Central Lancashire, University of

Chester, University of

Chichester, University of

City, University of London

Courtauld Institute of Art

Coventry University

Cranfield University

Cumbria, University of

De Montfort University

Derby, University of

Dundee, The University of

Durham University

East Anglia, University of

East London, University of

Edge Hill University

Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh, University of

Essex, University of

Exeter, University of

Falmouth University

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow, University of

Gloucestershire, University of

Goldsmiths, University of London

Greenwich, University of

Harper Adams University

Heriot-Watt University

Hertfordshire, University of

Huddersfield, The University of

Hull, The University of

Imperial College London

Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Keele University

Kent, The University of

King’s College London

Kingston University

Lancaster, University of

Leeds Arts University

Leeds Beckett University

Leeds Trinity University

Leeds, The University of

Leicester, University of

Lincoln, University of

Liverpool Hope University

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA)

Liverpool John Moores University

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Liverpool, University of

London Metropolitan University

London School of Economics

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

London South Bank University

Loughborough University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Manchester, The University of

Middlesex University

Newcastle University

Newman University

Northampton, The University of

Northumbria University

Norwich University of the Arts

Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham, The University of

Open University

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford, University of

Plymouth Marjon University

Plymouth, University of

Portsmouth, University of

Queen Margaret University

Queen Mary, University of London

Queen’s University Belfast

Reading, University of

Robert Gordon University

Roehampton University

Rose Bruford College

Royal Academy of Music

Royal Agricultural University

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Royal College of Art

Royal College of Music

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Veterinary College, University of London

Ruskin College

Salford, The University of

SAMS at University of the Highlands and Islands

Senate House, University of London

Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield, The University of

SOAS, University of London

Solent University

South Wales, University of

Southampton, University of

St Andrews, University of

St George’s, University of London

St Mary’s University College, Belfast

St Mary’s University, Twickenham

Staffordshire University

Stirling, The University of

Stranmillis University College

Strathclyde, University of

Suffolk, University of

Sunderland, University of

Surrey, University of

Sussex, University of

Swansea University

Teesside, University of

Trinity Laban

UCA University for the Creative Arts

Ulster University

University College Birmingham

University College London

University of the Arts London

University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Warwick, University of

West London, University of

West of England, University of the

West of Scotland, University of the

Westminster, University of

Winchester, The University of

Wolverhampton, University of

Worcester, University of

Wrexham Glyndwr University

Writtle University College

York, University of

York St John University