Ahead of Theresa May’s speech, which catalyzed the biggest jump in sterling since 2008, the signs were already there that the British currency is facing upward pressure when December U.K. inflation was reported to have accelerated to the fastest pace in more than two years, driven by the tumbling pound which drove a surge in import costs. Consumer-price growth increased to 1.6 percent, the highest since July 2014, from 1.2 percent in November, and above the 1.4% consensus estimte. A separate report showed the cost of imports soared at the fastest annual rate in more than five years according to Bloomberg.
On Monday, BOE’s Mark Carney warned on Monday that rapidly accelerating inflation will put the brakes on consumer spending this year following sterling’s 18 percent depreciation since the Brexit vote. The BOE, which will publish new projections next month, currently expects inflation to breach its 2 percent target soon. It sees the rate pushing close to 3 percent by the end of the year, while some forecasters see it even higher than that. “This is very much the thin end of the wedge and there is plenty more upside to come over the coming months,” said Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotiabank. “We suspect that the bank will turn more hawkish.” It is unclear if that means that the BOE may consider hiking: according to Goldman, not only will the BOE not raise rates for the next two years, but will actually engage in further easing in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, sterling’s weakness is affecting everything from groceries to technology. Case in point Apple, which overnight backed up last year’s 20% hike in laptop and computer prices with a sharp rise in app costs. As Sky News notes, the move will mean that for the first time there will be price parity between the dollar and the pound as an App Store product that used to cost 79p in the UK will now be 99p. US customers pay 99 cents.
Previously, the company revealed in October that its new MacBook Pro, Macbook Air and Mac Mini would rise in price by up to a quarter. Sterling’s slump was cited as the core reason at the time.
The price shift reflects the fall of up to 20% in the pound versus the dollar since the EU referendum and signals Apple was unwilling to earn less from an app purchased in the UK. The firm said: “Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time.”
The price rises will take effect within a week unless a specific app developer actively chooses to move to a lower pricing structure.
Apple made the announcement almost two weeks after it revealed the App Store had generated more than $20bn (£16bn) in revenue for developers last year – up 40% on 2015. Pokemon Go was the big success story.
Rising prices are set to become the norm for UK consumers over the coming months as everyday goods become more expensive amid pressure on retailers to pass on higher import costs. The scenario was reflected in the latest inflation figures which showed an impact from fuel and higher food and air fares while factory gate data suggested further price pressure is on the way with input costs growing almost 16% annually last month.
The car industry has been among the other voices warning of rising costs for UK consumers ahead, reflecting demands in their European supply chain despite benefits from a weaker pound which make their vehicles more competitive abroad.
The UK’s suddenly surging inflation means that, unless something drastically changes in the coming months, the BOE’s “reaction function” will be severely constrained, with increasingly more politicians, prodded by their angry constituency, demanding that Carney to halt the surging costs, in the process leading to even more selling across global rate products.