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UK inflation spikes as retailers respond to lockdown easing

Britain’s inflation rate more than doubled in April as energy prices soared and clothing retailers hiked prices as the country's coronavirus lockdown was eased, official statistics showed Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said consumer prices rose 1.5% in the year to April from 0.7% in March. The increase takes consumer price inflation up to its highest level since March last year, when the country first started to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The statistics agency said sharp rises in domestic energy prices and transportation costs lay largely behind the inflation spike. It also said clothing retailers increased prices last month when they were allowed to reopen their doors on April 12.

Yeoman Serjeant Clive Towell holds the keys to open the gates for the reopening of The Tower of London, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. After its longest closure since World War Two, the Tower of London will be reopening the gates of the 1,000 year old fortress on Wednesday. Whilst there, visitors will also be able to meet the two new additions to the Tower, the new baby ravens born during lockdown. (AP PhotoKirsty Wigglesworth)

The latest figures have accentuated concerns that Britain and other countries may face rising inflation as the world emerges from the pandemic and economic activity picks up at a time when central banks are keeping interest rates at historic lows and continue to print new money.

“We do not believe that higher inflation will be fully transitory as many in markets contend and as global central bankers seem to presume,” said Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg Bank. “The rebound marks a turning point for inflation across the advanced world following more than a decade of disinflation.”

A young visitor looks at human skulls and weapons found in the River Thames dating 1300-1000BC at the Museum of London, which is reopening following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England, in London, Wednesday May 19, 2021. (Victoria JonesPA via AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoMatt Dunham)