Closing summary

So, to recap, inflation has rocketed to 3.2% in the UK, the highest figure in almost a decade, pushed up by higher food and restaurant prices, but the Office for National Statistics said the rise was likely to be temporary. However, inflation is set to head even higher to 4.5% or maybe even 5% by Christmas, before slowing sharply next year, economists said.

However, the average UK house price fell by £10,000 in July compared with a month earlier, official figures show, as the housing market appeared to cool after the phasing out of the stamp duty holiday.

Inflation jumped even more in Canada to 4.1%, the fastest rate since March 2003 and twice the Bank of England’s inflation target.

Our other main stories today:

A major fire has forced the shutdown of one of Britain’s most important power cables importing electricity from France as the UK faces a supply crunch and record high market prices.

National Grid was forced to evacuate staff from the site of the IFA high-voltage power cable, which brings electricity from France to a converter station in Kent, where 12 fire engines attended the blaze in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Thousands of people who bought leasehold homes from the housing developer Countryside Properties will be freed from costly contract terms, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Primark has committed to making all of its clothes from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials within a decade, promising the strategy will not lead to price rises.

The retailer has also pledged to make clothes that can be “recyclable by design” by 2027. Only a quarter of the clothing it sells is made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.

Only 13 of the 100 largest UK-listed employers have revealed their ethnicity pay gaps, sparking fresh calls for the government to make reporting of racial earnings disparities mandatory.

Analysis of the FTSE 100, which includes the biggest firms listed on the London Stock Exchange, found that widespread commitments from employers to take action on racial disparity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer 2020 have yet to result in hard data.

The NHS app is collecting and storing facial verification data from citizens in England in a process which has fuelled concerns about transparency and accountability.

The data collection is taking place under a contract with a company linked to Tory donors called iProov, awarded by NHS Digital in 2019, which has yet to be published on the government website.

Stock markets are a sea of red.

Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll be back tomorrow. Bye! - JK

Canada inflation rockets to 4.1%

In Canada, inflation has rocketed 4.1%, the fastest rate since March 2003, according to official data – twice the Bank of Canada’s target.

The rise, up from 3.7% in July, was fuelled by higher gasoline and housing prices compared with August last year. House prices rose at the fastest pace since September 1987. Meat prices also rose, by 6.9% year-on-year, which Statistics Canada attributed in part to growing demand from restaurants.

Wall Street opened lower, but the Dow Jones and S&P 500 have just turned positive, with the Dow rising 0.3%.

Over here, the FTSE 100 index has edged up 0.1% to 7,042 while Germany’s Dax is 0.29% lower and France’s CAC and Italy’s FTSE MiB are both down about 0.8%.

US industrial output above pre-pandemic level

Industrial production in the US slowed last month, but was above its pre-pandemic level. Output increased 0.4% in August after a 0.8% rise in July, as shutdowns related to Hurricane Ida reduced the monthly increase by 0.3 percentage point. Even though the hurricane forced factory closures for petrochemicals, plastic resins and oil refining, manufacturing eked out a 0.2% gain.

Mining production was down 0.6%, reflecting hurricane-related disruptions to oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. However, utilities output rose 3.3%, as unusually warm weather boosted demand for air conditioning.

Industrial production in August was 5.9% above its year-earlier level and 0.3% above its pre-pandemic (February 2020) level.

US Industrial Production is back to pre-COVID levels here, while stocks are well above those levels... what if someone notices? pic.twitter.com/poA36L5Mwo

— Dave Harvie (@dcharvie) September 15, 2021

US import prices fell for the first time in 10 months in August because of a decline in oil and petroleum products – further evidence that inflation has probably peaked.

Import prices fell 0.3% last month after increasing 0.4% in July, the US Labor Department said. It was the first decline since last October and took the annual growth rate down to 9% from 10.3% in July. Yesterday, the headline rate of inflation in the US eased to 5.3% in August from 5.4% the month before.

There are several bits of US economic news.

The US housing market is booming: Mortgage applications to buy a home jumped 7% last week from the previous week to the highest level since April, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications were still 11% lower than the same week a year ago, but it was the smallest annual decline in 14 weeks.

Would-be buyers have been held back by the small supply of homes for sale, but that supply has been rising slowly over the summer. The number of new listings rose for nine consecutive weeks during the summer, but finally fell again last week, according to CNBC, which quoted a Realtor.com report. It said:

Even with the recent new listings slip, the gap with pre-Covid levels has shrunk significantly as more new sellers have entered the market so far in 2021 than last year.

Joel Kan, an MBA economist, said:

Both conventional and government purchase applications increased, and the average loan size for a purchase application rose to $396,800. The very competitive purchase market continues to put upward pressure on sales price.

Updated

The UK house price data released today showed the second steepest monthly decline in house prices since 1968, of 3.7%, knocking around £10,000 off the value of the average home.

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, says:

Like a bad Hollywood blockbuster, the UK housing market looks like it will have a predictable finale this year after an explosive start. Demand remains robust and the economic backdrop increasingly has a feel-good factor as Covid disappears into the rear-view mirror.

The key question is by how much supply picks up as autumn approaches. We expect seasonality and needs-driven buyers to play an important role in driving supply higher, which should start to curb house price growth. The monthly decline in July was the largest since 1992 and the second steepest since 1968 and we therefore expect annual growth to end the year in single digits.

On the stock markets, the FTSE 100 index has turned positive and is trading nearly 10 points higher at 7,043, a gain of 0.1%. The other main European indices are in the red, though –

  • Germany’s Dax down 0.19% at 15,693
  • France’s CAC 40 down 0.57% at 6,614
  • Italy’s FTSE MiB down 0.49% at 25,898

UK housing market cools in July

The latest official UK house price figures are out. The average price of a property fell by around £10,000, or 3.7%, to £255,535 in July, and the annual growth rate fell to 8% from 13.1% in June, as the stamp duty holiday was phased out.

The main findings are:

  • The average UK house price is £19,000 higher than this time last year, following the record high of £265,000 in June 2021.
  • Average house prices increased over the year in England to £271,000 (7%), in Wales to £188,000 (11.6%), in Scotland to £177,000 (14.6%) and in Northern Ireland to £153,000 (9.0%).
  • London continues to be the region with the lowest annual growth (2.2%) for the eighth consecutive month. House price growth was strongest in the North East where prices increased by 10.8% in the year to July 2021.

UK average house prices grew 8.0% in the year to July 2021, down from 13.1% in June.

The slowdown was due to changes in the stamp duty holiday conditions https://t.co/DugWJHNmbD pic.twitter.com/Olj6I41dRV

— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) September 15, 2021

Primark commits to sustainability plan

Cut-price fashion and homeware chain Primark has committed to making its clothing more sustainable over the next decade, promising that its strategy will not lead to price rises, our business reporter Joanna Partridge reports.

The retailer has pledged to make clothes that can be recycled by 2027, while all of its clothes will be made from recycled or more sustainable sourced materials by 2030.

Just a quarter of the clothing sold by Primark is currently made from recycled of sustainably sourced materials.

The chain, which is owned by Associated British Foods, said it intends to start making its men’s, women’s and kids’ entry-price t-shirts with sustainably-sourced cotton over the next year.

The company has also vowed to make its clothing more durable, so they last longer, as part of its promise to “make more sustainable fashion affordable for all”.

Customers queue in April to enter a Primark store in Birmingham, as it reopens its doors after a third lockdown imposed in early January.
Customers queue in April to enter a Primark store in Birmingham, as it reopens its doors after a third lockdown imposed in early January. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Returning to our main story, UK inflation, my colleague Hilary Osborne, who runs our Money team, has done a handy Q&A.

Here is some reaction to the rebound in eurozone industrial production in July. Peter Vanden Houte, ING’s chief economist covering Belgium and Luxembourg, says:

Eurozone industrial production recovered strongly in July after two months of contraction. As the seasonal adjustment flatters the summer months, it is too soon to dismiss the negative growth impact of supply chain problems. Meanwhile, the drop in labour costs is a statistical quirk.

We have to wait until September to know the extent to which supply chains have normalised and production can pick up more structurally, but recent reports are still qualified in that regard. Don’t get us wrong, the July figures are certainly good and courtesy of the recovery in the services sector, GDP growth is likely to hover around 2% quarter-on-quarter in 3Q, but we anticipate slower growth from 4Q onwards.

Holly Mackay, the chief executive of the website Boring Money, says:

We know that many consumers do not invest because they don’t know where to start or who to trust. Our research confirms that consumers are very aware of the potential for capital loss – in fact they tend to over-estimate potential losses meaning they often see investing as overly risky.

Our findings show 45% of savers with more than £10k in cash say they would consider investing in the future. So while there is a general appetite to in invest, we see a confused understanding of risk and what that actually looks like in practice.

The gender investment gap is well documented and we see women in particular are recklessly cautious in their approach. Any developments which support better, more helpful dialogue with consumers about the longer-term potential of mainstream, diversified investment portfolios have to be welcomed.

UK's financial watchdog sets targets for tackling investment scams

The UK’s financial watchdog has today set out a plan, and targets, to tackle investment scams.

Financial scams have rocketed, as more people look for investments on the internet, and since pension freedoms were introduced. Consumers lost nearly £570m to investment fraud in the year to April – it’s tripled since 2018.

The collapse of the investment firm London Capital & Finance forced the government to pay millions of pounds in compensation to investors.

The Financial Conduct Authority has pledged, by 2025:

  • Reduce by 20% the number of consumers who could benefit from investment earnings but are missing out. There are nearly 8.6m consumers holding more than £10,000 of investible assets in cash.
  • Halve the number of consumers who are investing in higher risk products that are not aligned to their needs. (6% of consumers increased their holdings of higher risk investments during the pandemic, with 45% of self-directed investors saying they did not realise the risks.)
  • Reduce the money consumers lose to investment scams perpetrated or facilitated by regulated firms.
  • Stabilise the £833m compensation bill for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, and target a year-on-year reduction in the Life Distribution and Investment Intermediation funding classes from 2025 to 2030.

To achieve these goals, the watchdog will explore changes in rules to make it easier for firms to provide more help to consumers who want to invest in relatively straightforward products.

The FCA is also launching a new £11m investment harm campaign, to help consumers make better-informed decisions and to reduce the number of people investing in inappropriate high-risk investments. And it promised to be more agile in how it “detects, disrupts and takes action against scammers”.

Sarah Pritchard, executive director of Markets at the FCA, said:

Investors have never had more freedom - technology has democratised the market, new products have become available, and people have better access to their life savings than before. But that freedom comes with risk. We want to give consumers greater confidence to invest and to help them do so safely, understanding the level of risk. The package of measures we have announced today are intended to support that – we want people to have greater confidence to invest. We also want to be able to adapt more rapidly to the changing market and be assertive where we see poor conduct and consumer harm.

The FCA has already taken some action to improve the market, for example by banning the mass-marketing of speculative mini-bonds.

Eurozone industrial production rebounds in July

Industrial production in the eurozone has come in much stronger than expected. It rebounded by 1.5% in July from June, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. In June, industrial production – which comprises factory, utility and mining output – fell by 0.1%. Analysts had expected a 0.6% increase in July.

Eurozone July Industrial Production Report – Eurostathttps://t.co/Zj4gyuMfMe pic.twitter.com/HsdWXd4q8V

— LiveSquawk (@LiveSquawk) September 15, 2021

The NHS app is collecting and storing facial verification data from citizens in England in a process which has fuelled concerns about transparency and accountability, in exclusive news reported by my colleague Rob Davies.

The data collection is taking place under a contract with a company linked to Tory donors called iProov, awarded by NHS Digital in 2019, which has yet to be published on the government website.

Privacy campaigners say the opacity of the relationship between London-based iProov and the government raises questions about how securely the information is held, with one saying they were “deeply concerned” about the secrecy surrounding the use of data.

An NHS spokesperson confirmed law enforcement bodies were able to request data, but that a special panel reviewed such requests, taking into account the health service’s duty of confidence.

John Lewis to recruit 7,000 temporary workers for Christmas

Spreading some early Christmas cheer, John Lewis has announced that it is recruiting 7,000 temporary workers for the festive period – 2,000 more than last year.

It is offering free food and drink to tempt potential joiners, amid labour shortages in some sectors of the economy.

The employee-owned partnership, which runs 34 John Lewis department stores and 331 Waitrose supermarkets and has a big online operation, is also hiring more than 550 permanent, full-time drivers and warehouse workers.

John Lewis said:

We will offer free food and drinks to partners and temporary workers from 4 October to 31 December to help ensure we can attract the help we need.

Waitrose Supermarket, Maidenhead.
Waitrose Supermarket, Maidenhead. Photograph: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock

Official data out yesterday showed businesses reported more than 1m job vacancies in the three months to August, the highest number since these records began in 2001.

In Italy, inflation nudged higher to 2% in August, less than the flash estimate of 2.1%, according to the country’s statistics institute Istat. Higher energy and food prices were the main factors pushing up the inflation rate. Between July and August, the consumer prices index rose 0.4%.

The surge in the UK’s headline rate of inflation spells further bad news for business hot on the heels of last week’s rise in national insurance contributions, says the real estate adviser Altus Group.

Next month’s CPI rate (September) will determine business rates rises next April for 2022/23. Altus forecasts 3.2% would signal that gross business rates bills would rise by £1.07bn in England, of which £259.33m would be shouldered by the embattled retail sector without government intervention.

Julian Jessop, economics fellow at the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, says UK inflation could reach at least 4.5% by Christmas, potentially rising as high as 5%.

Some of the upward pressures on inflation should be temporary, including higher energy costs and ‘base effects’ in the annual comparison. For now at least, medium-term inflation expectations are also still quite low.

However, these temporary upward pressures have turned out to be both stronger and longer lasting than expected. Why take the risk that higher inflation becomes baked in?

A sustained increase in inflation will also wipe out any benefit from the pick up in underlying pay growth, which the ONS has estimated at between 3.6 per cent and 5.1 per cent.

The Bank of England should therefore take the foot off the accelerator by ending quantitative easing, rather than continuing to pump more money into an economy which is already overheating.

Here’s our full story on inflation.

To recap: UK inflation made its biggest jump on record in August amid a rise in food and drink prices, reversing a sharp decline a year earlier during the government’s eat out to help out restaurant discount scheme, reports our economics correspondent Richard Partington.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the consumer prices index measure of annual inflation rose to 3.2% in August, up from 2% in July, as the cost of a meal snapped back from a period of steep discounting a year ago.

The increase in prices surpassed City economists’ forecasts for a rate of 2.9%, and the 1.2 percentage point increase between July and August’s figures was the largest since detailed records began in January 1997.

The ONS said the rise was likely to be temporary as the reading had been heavily distorted by Rishi Sunak’s discount scheme, which offered customers half-price food and drink between Monday and Wednesday in August 2020. Inflation is calculated based on the annual change in price for a basket of goods and services.

The owner of the Wagamama restaurant chain has also warned of labour shortages and supply chain constraints. Even so, Restaurant Group moved back into the black in the first half of the year, thanks to cost cuts and people rushing to dine out after Covid lockdown restrictions were eased.

The company, which also owns Frankie & Benny’s and Brunning & Price, reported an adjusted profit of £11.2m for the 27 weeks to 4 July, versus a £18.3m loss a year earlier. (Its statutory loss before tax shrank to £58.8m from £234.7m.)

Andy Hornby, the chief executive, says:

Whilst there are some well documented sector challenges to navigate in the short-term, particularly around labour availability and supply chain, we believe the Group is well positioned for the long- term.

A Wagamama restaurant in London.
A Wagamama restaurant in London. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

While the FTSE 100 is languishing at 7,028, a drop of 5 points, Fever-Tree shares are up 2.1%. The British tonic and mixer maker has toasted a 23% rise in half-year profits to £29.2m but warned that rising shipping costs due to global supply chain disruptions were hurting its profit margins. It said the issues would probably last into next year.

It has taken some action: increasing shipments to its key US market, building inventory locally and working with its UK logistics partner to manage trucker driver availability during peak periods. All this has pushed up its costs.

The company’s revenues climbed 36% to nearly £142m as people snapped up its new premium soda range and rhubarb & raspberry tonic. Fever-Tree already upped its revenue forecast for the full year in July, to between £295m and £304m.

Products from the drinks company Fever-Tree.
Products from the drinks company Fever-Tree. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Countryside leaseholders win victory in ground rent scandal

Leaseholders have won a victory at Countryside Properties: thousands of people who bought leasehold homes from the housing developer will be freed from costly contract terms, following an investigation by consumer watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), reports my colleague Joanna Partridge.

The CMA has been looking into the practice by Countryside and other property developers of doubling ground rent every 10 to 15 years.

As a result of these cost increases, which is written into property contracts, some houseowners can struggle to sell or mortgage their homes, while their rights to their property can also be at risk if they fall behind on ground rent payments.

Countryside Properties has now voluntarily given formal commitments to the CMA to remove the terms from its leasehold contracts which cause ground rents to double.

The company will also remove terms from updated contracts, which meant that the ground rent increased in line with the higher retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation.

Affected leaseholders’ ground rent will now remain at the amount charged when they bought their home, and it will not increase over time.

Countryside confirmed that it no longer sells leasehold properties with doubling ground rent clauses.

The announcement comes a year after the CMA launched enforcement action against four housing developers – Countryside, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments and Persimmon Homes - in September 2020, which it believes may have broken consumer protection law in relation to leasehold homes.

Employees work on the upper floors of new homes under construction at a Countryside Properties Plc new housing development in Chelmsford.
Employees work on the upper floors of new homes under construction at a Countryside Properties Plc new housing development in Chelmsford. Photograph: Getty Images

In France, inflation is a bit more subdued, but also picked up in August, according to final figures from the French statistics institute Insee.

The annual rate rose to 1.9% last month from 1.2% in July on the back of higher prices for manufactured goods, food and energy.

Updated

European stock markets are mixed at the open.

  • UK’s FTSE 100 index down 0.08% at 7,028
  • Germany’s Dax up 0.1%
  • France’s CAC 40 up 0.1%
  • Spain’s Ibex down 0.1%
  • Italy’s FTSE MiB down 0.08%

Aside from food prices, used car prices also continue to go up. They increased 4.9% between July and August, and have increased cumulatively by 18.4% since April 2021.

The Office for National Statistics explains that since the coronavirus pandemic started, there have been reports of increased demand for cars as people sought safer alternatives to public transport.

The global shortage of semiconductors has held back the production of new cars and prompted consumers to look at buying a secondhand car instead.

UK inflation
UK inflation Photograph: ONS

Updated

Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, has crunched the numbers.

The leap in CPI inflation from 2.0% in July to a nine-year high of 3.2% in August is the first step in a rise that may take inflation to 4.5% by November. But as inflation will fall back almost as sharply next year, we don’t think the MPC [monetary policy committee] will raise interest rates until 2023.

About 0.9ppts of the rise in CPI inflation in August was due to base effects linked to the sharp fall in consumer prices in August 2020, most of which was driven by the Eat Out to Help Out restaurant discount scheme.

But 0.3ppts of the rise was due to a strengthening in underlying price pressures.

What’s more, a further rise in inflation to at least 4.2% already seems in the bag, partly due to a rise in utility prices from October, Dales explains. As such, inflation may be 4.5% by November. However, he expects inflation to fall sharply next year as these factors fade and by be below 2% by the end of 2022.

But the next few months of soaring inflation will be an uncomfortable period for the MPC.

Updated

Introduction: UK inflation hits highest figure in almost a decade

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

News just out: UK inflation jumped to 3.2% in August, from 2% in July, the highest rate since March 2012. The Office for National Statistics says:

The increase of 1.2 percentage points is the largest ever recorded increase in the CPI National Statistic 12-month inflation rate series, which began in January 1997; this is likely to be a temporary change.

The consumer prices index rose 0.7% between July and August, compared with a 0.4% drop in August last year.

The statistics office said higher prices in transport, restaurants, hotels and for food and drinks pushed up the consumer prices index. It noted that in August 2020 many prices in restaurants and cafes were discounted because of the government’s temporary Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which was not repeated this year.

BIG jump in UK CPI inflation.
Up from annual rate of 2% in July to 3.2% in Aug.
Not just the highest level of inflation since 2012, it’s also the biggest month-on-month change in the level in the history of this inflation measure (going back to 1997) pic.twitter.com/vpayK1ziq7

— Ed Conway (@EdConwaySky) September 15, 2021

Renewed inflationary surge - @ONS data shows UK #inflation rose to 3.2% in Aug-21, highest rate since March 2012.

Sharp rise largely due to major base effects from last year’s VAT cut & Eat Out to Help Out which lowered restaurant prices in Aug-20, while this year prices rose. pic.twitter.com/nKrDDnh0RW

— Suren Thiru (@Suren_Thiru) September 15, 2021

The figures come a day after inflation across the US economy eased in August from July’s 13-year highs, in a sign that some of the pandemic price pressures may be fading.

The US Consumer Prices Index rose by 5.3% in the 12 months to August, down from 5.4% in July. Energy prices rose by 25% over the year, while the food index increased 3.7%. Core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as energy and food, fell back to 4% from 4.5%.

Even though this was what investors wanted to see, stock markets still fell back and bond yields fell over concerns that growth is starting to slow.

Over in China, retail sales slowed sharply, showing the impact of port disruptions and localised Covid restrictions that were reintroduced because of the spread of the delta variant. Retail sales rose by 2.5% in August, a big fall from July’s 8.5% increase. Industrial production also slowed, to a 5.3% increase from 6.4% in July. Asian markets fell after the data, with Japan’s Nikkei losing 0.5% and China’s CSI 300 down 1%.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, says:

If investors weren’t worried about a slow down in China’s economy before today’s numbers they probably are now. As a gauge of how much damage the resurgent delta variant is doing to economic activity you couldn’t see a starker example.

The Agenda

  • 7.45am BST: France inflation final for August (forecast: 1.9%)
  • 9am BST: Italy inflation final for August (forecast: 2.1%)
  • 10am BST: Eurozone industrial production for July
  • 12pm BST: US MBA mortgage applications for week of 10 September
  • 1.30pm BST: Canada inflation for August (forecast: 3.9%)
  • 2.15pm BST: US Industrial production for August

Updated

Contributors

Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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