London: British inflation rose to its highest level in more than five years in September, official data showed on Tuesday, adding to the likelihood that the Bank of England (BoE) will raise interest rates next month.
Consumer prices last month were 3.0 per cent higher than a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, matching economists' average expectation in a Reuters poll and marking the fastest rise since April 2012.
Rising inflation — driven largely by the pound's fall since last year's vote to leave the European Union — has squeezed household incomes, causing broader economic growth to slow.
Wages have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
Nonetheless, last month the BoE said it expected to raise interest rates in the coming months if the economy and price pressures continued to strengthen.
"Today's release has all but rubber stamped a rate hike from the central bank at their next meeting," said David Cheetham, chief market analyst at retail forex broker XTB.
Sterling dipped initially against the dollar after the data but soon recovered, while stocks were mostly unchanged.
A majority of economists polled by Reuters think the BoE will move at its next meeting in November — but most also said it would be a mistake to act now.
New Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden said on Tuesday that domestic price pressures remain below the kind of levels that would pose a threat to the central bank's inflation target. This implies the inflation is imported.
Last month the BoE said it expected inflation to exceed 3 per cent in October, higher than it had forecast just a month before, when it predicted it would take more than three years for inflation to return to its 2 per cent target.
Although much of the effect of the pound's decline has already been felt by consumers, some retailers are only now starting to pass on price rises.
On Monday, furniture retailer IKEA Group said it had increased prices in Britain by 3 per cent to compensate for the slump in sterling.
The pound has fallen around 12 per cent since the referendum against a trade-weighted basket of major currencies such as the US dollar and the euro.
Food and transport costs helped to push up inflation in September, the ONS said.
Core consumer price inflation — which strips out changes in the typically volatile prices of energy, food and tobacco — was steady at 2.7 per cent, as expected in the Reuters poll.
The ONS also released figures for house prices in August, which showed an 5.0 per cent annual rise across the United Kingdom as a whole compared with a 4.5 per cent increase in July. Prices in London alone rose 2.6 per cent.