UK inflation unexpectedly drops to 2.8 per cent
Slowing fuel and food price rises offer rare good news for consumers
THE RATE of inflation unexpectedly fell to a two-and-a-half-year low last month as declining oil prices started to filter through to the petrol pumps.
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation dropped from 3 per cent in April to 2.8 per cent in May - the lowest level since November 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). City analysts expected the rate to remain unchanged.
The decline was driven by a sharp drop in petrol pump prices as the average price for fuel fell by 4.5p per litre between April and May to stand at 137.1p. Last year, the average petrol price rose 2p to 136.3p.
Inflation has fallen from 5.2 per cent last September due to the waning impact of the VAT hike at the start of 2011 and falling energy, food and commodity prices, easing pressure on squeezed household incomes, Bloomberg reports.
Despite the latest fall, inflation has still not pulled back as quickly as the Bank of England initially expected, after fears over increasing tensions between the West and Iran pushed oil prices higher in March.
But the cost of crude oil has fallen since then and May's inflation figures show that this is starting to benefit consumers. Average diesel prices also decreased, dropping 4.4p to 143.3p between April and May, compared with a 0.7p rise last year to 141.5p.
The fall in inflation in May is likely to bolster the case for the Bank to pump more emergency cash into the economy through its quantitative easing programme, as the eurozone crisis escalates and threatens to destabilise the UK economy.
Inflation is now within 1 per cent of the Government's 2 per cent target, meaning Bank Governor Sir Mervyn King did not have to send a letter of explanation to the Chancellor George Osborne.
A Treasury spokesman said: "Inflation is out of Open Letter territory for the second month in a row, which is good news and is providing some welcome relief for family budgets."