Rising Fuel And Food Costs Causing Consumer Concern

By: Abbi Rouse

A new countrywide consumer poll from Lloyds TSB has indicated that worries about food, fuel and energy costs are forcing expectations of high inflation in the coming year.

The consumer barometer identified that average expectations for inflation in the next 12 months were found to approach four per cent, as opposed to the official three per cent set out by the Bank of England's monetary policy committee's (MPC's) quarterly retail price index (RPI) report. Conducted earlier this month, the barometer questioned 2,000 adults throughout the UK and found that 90 per cent felt that average prices had risen in the past 12 months, compared to the 63 per cent recorded in May 2007. 89 per cent more also said they expected prices to continue rising in the next 12 moths. Both of these results were at their highest level since 2004.

Respondents to the study envisaged that by this time next year, inflation would be up to 3.8 per cent, up from 3.6 per cent estimated in last year's survey. Lloyds TSB also suggested that consumer confidence in employment and their own job security was also slipping. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents said they felt their job was less secure than it was a year ago, while 48 per cent of people said that overall employment prospects in the UK had got worse in the past 12 months.

For those who have found themselves struggling with general living expenses, taking out a low-rate loan may be of assistance in meeting the costs of food and energy.

Meanwhile, consumers who have become increasingly indebted as living costs soar, taking out a debt consolidation loan may provide a lifeline.

Trevor Williams, chief economist at Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets, said: "Currently at three per cent, there is no disputing that the current prediction is that inflation will stay high. However the latest report from the Bank of England suggested that in the long term inflationary pressures would ease as food and fuel prices start to fall in the next 12 months. In stark contrast to this, our latest barometer shows that consumers do not believe prices will ease and so inflation expectations for the next 12 months are tipping four per cent. The MPC continues to highlight the need to anchor inflation expectations as key to bringing actual inflation under control."

He added that any future cut in the interest rate would send the wrong message to consumers. Mr Williams suggested that the UK will be in for a period of flat or rising interest rates if consumer expectations continue to rise.

In a press conference following the MPC's May RPI publication, Bank of England governor Mervyn King attributed the current rise in inflation to increasing global costs of food and energy. He added that consumers will continue to feel the effect of these inflated prices over the course of the next 12 to 18 months and as such, he asserted that it "doesn't make sense" to focus on bringing inflation down to the Bank's target level of two per cent within this timeframe. However, Mr King said that "we should certainly" look to tack inflation back to this level in two years' time.

Although the interest rate remained unchanged at its last meeting, the MPC has reduced rates twice this year. In AprilFree Articles, the base rate was cut by a quarter of a percentage point to stand at its current level of an even five per cent.

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