UK CPI inflation falls to 2.0% YoY in May, returns to BoE’s target

  • United Kingdom annual CPI rose 2.0% in May vs. 2.0% estimates.
  • British inflation steadies at 0.3% MoM in May, meets forecast.
  • GBP/USD holds above 1.2700 after UK CPI inflation data.

The United Kingdom (UK) Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose at an annual rate of 2.0% in May, having increased by 2.3% in April, the data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed Wednesday. 

The reading matched the market expectations of a 2.0% growth and returned to the Bank of England’s (BoE) target for the first time since 2021.

Core CPI (excluding volatile food and energy items) advanced 3.5% YoY in May, compared to April’s increase of 3.9% while coming in line with the forecast.

The UK May Services CPI rose 5.7% YoY, a tad slower from a 5.9% increase seen in April.

Meanwhile, the UK Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% MoM in May, at the same pace as seen in April while missing the expected 0.4% figure.

GBP/USD reaction to the UK CPI inflation data

The UK CPI data fails to move the needle around the Pound Sterling, as the GBP/USD pair keeps its range above 1.2700. The pair is trading 0.04% higher on the day.

GBP/USD: 15-minutes chart

British Pound PRICE Today

The table below shows the percentage change of British Pound (GBP) against listed major currencies today. British Pound was the strongest against the New Zealand Dollar.

USD   0.00% -0.05% -0.03% -0.02% -0.21% 0.08% -0.06%
EUR -0.01%   -0.06% -0.02% -0.03% -0.22% 0.10% -0.06%
GBP 0.05% 0.06%   0.02% 0.03% -0.16% 0.14% 0.01%
JPY 0.03% 0.02% -0.02%   0.00% -0.17% 0.13% -0.00%
CAD 0.02% 0.03% -0.03% -0.01%   -0.18% 0.13% -0.02%
AUD 0.21% 0.22% 0.16% 0.17% 0.18%   0.32% 0.19%
NZD -0.08% -0.10% -0.14% -0.13% -0.13% -0.32%   -0.14%
CHF 0.06% 0.06% -0.01% 0.00% 0.02% -0.19% 0.14%  

The heat map shows percentage changes of major currencies against each other. The base currency is picked from the left column, while the quote currency is picked from the top row. For example, if you pick the British Pound from the left column and move along the horizontal line to the US Dollar, the percentage change displayed in the box will represent GBP (base)/USD (quote).

This section below was published at 02:15 GMT as a preview of the UK Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.

  • The UK Office for National Statistics will publish the May CPI report on Wednesday.
  • UK inflation is expected to cool down, falling back to the BoE´s target.
  • The Bank of England will announce its decision on monetary policy on Thursday.
  • The Pound Sterling is expected to post a wild reaction to inflation data.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Office for National Statistics (ONS) will release the May Consumer Price Index (CPI) report on Wednesday at 06:00 GMT. At the same time, the ONS will publish the Producer Price Index (PPI) figures for the same period. 

Inflation in the United Kingdom remains above the Bank of England’s (BoE) 2% target. According to the latest data, the UK CPI grew by 2.3% year-over-year (YoY), while core annual inflation posted 3.9% in April. Market participants expect the CPI to have risen 2% YoY in May, matching the BoE’s goal for the first time in roughly three years.

What to expect from the May UK inflation report?

Financial markets anticipate the UK headline CPI rose 2% YoY, while the core annual reading is foreseen at 3.5%. Those figures would be an improvement from April readings, when the CPI rose 2.3%, while the core reading, excluding volatile food and energy prices, hit 3.9%. 

However, May monthly inflation is seen up 0.4%, following the 0.3% posted in the previous month. It may not be a really worrisome outcome, yet markets may be discouraged by an uptick in price pressures, even if it’s this low. 

The BoE´s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) left interest rates unchanged at a multi-year high of 5.25% when it met in May, although two out of the nine voting members preferred to trim rates by 25 basis points (bps).

"We are not yet at a point where we can cut the base rate," BoE Governor Andrew Bailed said, although policymakers acknowledged the steady decline in inflation. The central bank economic projections released alongside the May meeting showed consumer inflation is projected to approach the 2% target in the near term but could edge up later in the year due to the unwinding of energy-related base effects. Policymakers also remarked that service sector inflation remained at 6.0% as of March, more than doubling the BoE’s goal. 

Would a 2% print be enough to trigger a rate cut as soon as this week? That seems tough but not impossible. Market players may pay attention to headline figures, but policymakers will rather focus on service inflation. A sharp drop in the latest, alongside headline readings in line with expectations, will definitely lift the odds of an interest rate cut in June. Before the inflation-data release, however, market participants believe the BoE will keep rates on hold for one more time.  

When will the UK Consumer Price Index report be released and how could it affect GBP/USD?

The UK will publish CPI and PPI data on Wednesday at 06:00 GMT. The Pound Sterling (GBP) is trading below the 1.2700 mark against the US Dollar (USD), with the latter maintaining a firmer tone ever since the United States (US) reported price pressures kept easing in May. The US Federal Reserve (Fed) kept rates unchanged regardless and announced it may deliver one or two rate cuts before year-end. 

For a change, the Fed did not deliver ahead of its major counterparts, as the Bank of Canada (BoC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) have already trimmed rates. That means the BoE may proceed with more confidence once inflation falls into policymakers’ comfort zone. 

With that in mind, the figures released on Wednesday could trigger some wild price action around GBP crosses. Generally speaking, higher-than-anticipated readings should signal a steady BoE and, hence, underpin the Pound

Should inflation-related figures come in below the market expectations, speculative interest will rush to price in a rate cut as soon as this week and put pressure on GBP. Bear in mind market players may opt to remain pat ahead of the BoE’s announcement 24 hours later. 

Valeria Bednarik, Chief Analyst at FXStreet, says: “The GBP/USD pair has held around the 1.2700 mark for five consecutive weeks, showing little sign of directional progress. It reached a peak at 1.2859 on June 12, while the bottom has been set in the 1.2660 price zone. Ahead of the announcement, GBP/USD loses strength and nears the lower end of the aforementioned range. Technically speaking, the case for a bearish extension has become firmer in the daily chart as the pair develops below a now flat 20 Simple Moving Average (SMA) while approaching a directionless 100 SMA, providing dynamic support at around 1.2640. Technical indicators, in the meantime, hold within negative levels, although with uneven strength, not enough to anticipate a directional movement.”

Bednarik adds: “If GBP/USD breaks below the 1.2640/50 area, the pair can quickly reach the 1.2600 mark en route to 1.2520. The upside seems more messy. Sellers have rejected advances around 1.2800, while the peak at 1.2859 is also relevant. A sharp rally could be expected on a breakout beyond the latter, but this is not likely until after the BoE’s announcement on monetary policy. 

Inflation FAQs

Inflation measures the rise in the price of a representative basket of goods and services. Headline inflation is usually expressed as a percentage change on a month-on-month (MoM) and year-on-year (YoY) basis. Core inflation excludes more volatile elements such as food and fuel which can fluctuate because of geopolitical and seasonal factors. Core inflation is the figure economists focus on and is the level targeted by central banks, which are mandated to keep inflation at a manageable level, usually around 2%.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices of a basket of goods and services over a period of time. It is usually expressed as a percentage change on a month-on-month (MoM) and year-on-year (YoY) basis. Core CPI is the figure targeted by central banks as it excludes volatile food and fuel inputs. When Core CPI rises above 2% it usually results in higher interest rates and vice versa when it falls below 2%. Since higher interest rates are positive for a currency, higher inflation usually results in a stronger currency. The opposite is true when inflation falls.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, high inflation in a country pushes up the value of its currency and vice versa for lower inflation. This is because the central bank will normally raise interest rates to combat the higher inflation, which attract more global capital inflows from investors looking for a lucrative place to park their money.

Formerly, Gold was the asset investors turned to in times of high inflation because it preserved its value, and whilst investors will often still buy Gold for its safe-haven properties in times of extreme market turmoil, this is not the case most of the time. This is because when inflation is high, central banks will put up interest rates to combat it. Higher interest rates are negative for Gold because they increase the opportunity-cost of holding Gold vis-a-vis an interest-bearing asset or placing the money in a cash deposit account. On the flipside, lower inflation tends to be positive for Gold as it brings interest rates down, making the bright metal a more viable investment alternative.


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