• IHS Markit index shows UK households pessimistic about finances for 2017-208
  • UK household finances remain under intense pressure from rising living costs
  • 58 percent of respondents expected higher interest rates in 12 months time
  • Inflation in the United Kingdom currently at near four-year high
  • Prices up prices by 2.9pc year-on-year, biggest annual increase since June 2013
  • In May consumer spending in the UK fell for the first time in almost four years

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

Inflation is taxation without legislation Milton Friedman

Inflation is no longer in stealth mode

Inflation at 2.9% and wage growth lagging behind has meant household consumers in the UK are under intense pressure from rising living costs.

The IHS Markit Index and Survey measures how people feel about their current situation. The June reading changed from 43.8 from 42.6, indicating that households are the most pessimistic about their finances than they have been in three months.

Reports have linked this to the latest Consumer Price Index readings combined with inflation and interest rate expectations. It is no surprise that with weakening economic indicators and an uncertain political outlook that sentiment is falling.

The fall in the British pound, following the 2016 Brexit vote, is seemingly being blamed for this fall in consumer confidence and climb in inflation. Prior to the referendum last June, official inflation was just 0.3%.

Whilst the pound has recovered slightly from it’s tumble post General Election, general sentiment regarding the currency and the general political and economic situation, is weak. Following the Brexit shock the fall in sterling pushed up the cost of imported goods.

Higher interest rates and inflation expectations

The IHS Market survey also showed that 58% of respondents expect the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to raise interest rates in 12 months’ time. Following the Brexit vote, less than half of the number of people expected this to happen, suggesting consumers were unprepared for the economic hardship that was coming their way.

Consumers might not be wrong to expect a rate hike in the next year. Minutes from the MPC’s June meeting showed that three members (of eight) voted for a rate increase. Rates currently stand at 0.25%.

Usually the Bank of England would look to raise interest rates given the continuing climb above the inflation target. However, these results not only suggest the MPC will have to wait longer but that they will also be unable to inject more cash into the economy. This would perhaps not be a bad thing, in the long run.

One of the major products contributing to the increase in inflation this month was apparently package holidays, highlighting the growing cost of foreign travel at current sterling prices. The second product highlighted by the Office of National Statistics to be contributing to inflation was computer games.

We’re fairly sure that consumers have been feeling the pinch regardless of whether they like a trip to Brittany or enjoy a late-night session of World of Warcraft. Wage growth consistently fails to keep up with inflation and the UK’s household debt to income ratio shows Brits are consistently spending more than they are earning.

There are some major long-term indicators that suggest consumers have been suffering from climbing inflation for some time. But, there has been little official recognition of this, in other words we have been experiencing stealth inflation.

Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit-man Ronald Reagan

Inflation no longer so stealthy

Whilst Brexit, a hung parliament and the subsequent weak pound are being blamed for the rise in inflation and fall in consumer sentiment, make no mistake that inflation has been making its way into the market in a variety of ways for many years now. It is also at a much higher level than the Consumer Price Index would have us believe.

The first example is the CPIH which a measure of how much manufacturers are having to pay for raw materials and energy. Prices were up 15.6% in a year, in April and 11.6% in May. How this really feeds through to consumers though is not just through price rises as is measured by the CPI, but by what we call a stealth form of inflation a fall in quality and increase in price.

[inflation] will lead to a decline in the quality of goods and of service to consumers, since consumers often resist price increases less when they occur in the form of downgrading of quality. Murray Rothbard, What Has Government Done to Our Money?

Everyone you speak to can think of an examp