Blog: August 2021
CPI inflation fell by a large amount (0.5%) and is now at 2.0%. All of this effect was due to the “base effect” of the spike in inflation last year (June-July 2020) dropping out. There was no new inflation in June-July 2021 as the general level of prices remained constant. The reduction in inflation was spread across most sectors, the only exception being Transport, which showed a large month on month increase, largely due to motor fuels and second- hand car prices. Clothing and footwear also showed a significant decrease due to the July sales.
Looking forward, when we allow for the reversal of VAT reductions in the hospitality sector and scheduled rise in household energy prices announced by OFGEM, we expect inflation to increase rapidly in the later months of 2021 reaching a peak of 3.9% or higher in the first quarter of 2022, falling to about 3% by July 2022.
The COVID-19 crisis has upended the lives of many, causing almost 200M global infections to date, over 4M deaths and untold damage to the livelihoods of millions. Although the recent vaccine rollout in some parts of the world offers some room for optimism, the epidemic is still far from defeated and many in the developing world are still at significant risk of infection.
The nature of the crisis, ostensibly one related to public health, has proved to be multi-pronged, with economic and social behaviour, public health policy and economic policy closely intertwined and both reacting to and conditioning the future path of the epidemic.
The Federal Reserve underpredicted 2021’s US inflation pick-up but believes the current inflation spike is temporary. If this assessment proves wrong, the result could be lasting higher than targeted inflation, an extended period of high unemployment, or both. To avoid this economic long Covid, the Fed should taper soon to give itself the flexibility to respond with higher rates if inflation fails to retreat as much as it expects.