Reuters API
Jan 30, 2019
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UK shop prices rise more quickly but non-food prices still falling

Reuters API
Jan 30, 2019

Prices in shops in Britain rose by the most in nearly six years in January, but inflation is not a big risk as long as the country can avoid a no-deal Brexit, the British Retail Consortium said on Wednesday. Shops increased prices by an 0.4% compared with a year earlier, the most since April 2013. In December prices rose by an annual 0.3%.

Fashion retailers kept their prices low in January, helping non-food prices overall to fall

Retailers have been holding prices down in the face of tough online competition and faltering consumer confidence as Britain approaches the date when it is due to leave the European Union.

Despite the gradual increase in shop prices over the past four months, the BRC said consumers had little to fear from inflation as the underlying upward pressure on prices was easing. "That is unless the UK leaves the EU without a deal on March 29, leading to increases in the price of many goods in the weekly shopping basket," BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to rally her own Conservative Party behind her plans for taking Britain out of the European Union in less than two months' time, raising fears of border delays and a fall in the value of the pound that would make imports more expensive.

But while food prices rose in January, non-foods fell, albeit  by the smallest amount since March 2013, dropping by 0.3% as the clearance sales skewed prices and also as retailers held back from hiking prices in the face of weak consumer sentiment.

Britain's official measure of consumer price inflation stood at 2.1% in December, a touch above the Bank of England's 2% target. The BoE expects inflation to drift down as it raises interest rates gradually.

Separately on Wednesday, a survey showed that confidence among employers about Britain's economic outlook and about their hiring and investment decisions sank to their joint-lowest levels since June 2016, the month of the Brexit referendum.

"The business community is united in wanting a no-deal Brexit off the table," said Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which commissioned the survey.

The survey showed companies expected to hire more permanent staff but the resilience of the labour market would not defy the effects of deep uncertainty about Brexit indefinitely, Carberry said.

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