Inflation rose to 1.9% in June as house prices leaped 10.5%

Forget worries about deflation - the consumer prices index came tantalisingly close to the Bank of England's target last month, figures published this morning show.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2014

After years of high inflation during the financial crisis, the worry recently has been over whether we're about to go into stagflation - or, worse, deflation. But figures published by the Office for National Statistics this morning show the consumer prices index hit 1.9% in June - just under the Bank of England's 2% target. On the Goldilocks scale, that's as near as dammit to being 'just right'.

The figure is up from 1.5% in May, the lowest it's been in four and a half years. In June, it was pushed up by housing, water, electricity and gas, which accounted for about a quarter of inflation.

Still, as the chart below shows, despite that slight rise, inflation is still as low as it's been for ages.

Source: ONS

But the news that we're not about to sink into a Japanese-style stagflation rut is slightly countered by wage growth, which (in May - June's figures are yet to be published) rose 1.7%, ie. only just more than inflation. If it stayed at that figure in June, it means in real terms, people got poorer.

The ONS also published its house price index, showing prices across the UK rose 10.5% in the year to May, up from 9.9% in April. It's madness, particularly when you take into consideration that the out-of-control growth was limited to England, where it was 11%, compared with 6.5% in Wales, 3.6% in Scotland and -0.7% in Northern Ireland.

But actually, as this chart shows, prices aren't as out-of-control as they were in 2004 or 2007 - in fact, we've only just gone back to the same level of growth as mid-2010.

Source: ONS

What's astonishing is the extent to which growth is being driven by London and the South East: in the capital, prices rose 20.1% in the year to May, while in the South East they rose 9.6%. Which suggests the gap between the South East and everywhere else is growing ever wider.

Should the Bank of England be given housing market cooling powers targeted entirely at the South East? The ones it already has (capping loan-to-earnings ratios, stress tests on borrowers) have been criticised as ineffectual. Perhaps it's time for the government to bring out its big guns...

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