Retail inflation hits 5-month high of 3.81% in March

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The consumer price index (CPI), a key gauge of retail inflation, rose 0.9 per cent in the month, the data showed, compared to a 0.8 per cent increase in February.

Explaining the headline weakness, the NBS said that food prices fell by 4.4% from a year earlier, largely offsetting an increase in non-food inflation of 2.3% over the same period.

China's consumer inflation rate has been far milder, edging up to 0.9 percent in March, from 0.8 percent in February.

Consumer food price inflation moderated to 1.93 per cent, as compared to 2.01 per cent in February.

Its forecast inflation is set to increase to over three per cent this year.

For the January to March period, CPI rose 1.4% from a year earlier, while PPI climbed 7.4%.

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"Our most recent Totaljobs Employment Index also reflected the strength of the job market, with applications up 32 per cent in the first three months of 2017 compared with the same period a year ago".

"This could be partly due to the supermarket price wars in the United Kingdom over this period which resulted in a downward pressure on food prices".

Economists said both the consumer and factory gate inflation were generally stable in March, allowing the People's Bank of China to maintain a relatively tight monetary stance.

Also in April, increases in taxes on air passengers and auto owners are kicking in and many utility companies are raising their prices too. However, analysts believe that prices could rise even further.

Sterling slipped back after the CPI announcement, before regaining composure in afternoon trading to rise 0.1% against the USA dollar at 1.243 and push marginally higher versus the euro at 1.172.

Still, while China's producer price inflation has likely passed its peak, it is likely to remain high for a bit longer, keeping profits at a reasonable level, ANZ said in a note.

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The CPI reading for March was the joint highest level since September 2013 and comes after inflation broke above the Bank's target in February for the first time in almost three and a half years.

Housing costs, which include utility bills, already rose at their fastest pace since November 2014 in March, the ONS figures showed.

"Households are being caught in a flawless storm of rising inflation and slowing labour income growth", said Samuel Tombs, chief United Kingdom economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Gregory concludes: 'Given the uncertainty around the Brexit negotiations and the fact that there has been little sign of building domestic cost pressures, we continue to think that the MPC will hold off until the middle of next year before raising rates'.

The combination of a sterling-induced inflation surge and lackluster wage growth is eating into the spending power of consumers, the engine of the British economy.

'However, higher inflation, coupled with subdued earnings increases, means that the real growth rate in pay has tailed off to just above zero'.

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