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Business News

James Moore: Retail figures swing not good news for everyone

Outlook Life will today get a little easier for the Bank of England's incoming Governor, Mark Carney. The British Retail Consortium will release figures showing that shop price inflation morphed into shop price deflation during May.

Overall, prices declined by 0.1 per cent. That's not much, but with flat or decreasing wages (in real terms), as Tesco likes to say, every little helps.

Of course there is rather more help in the figures for those on good incomes than there is for those on low incomes. The main cause of the first overall fall in prices for three-and-a-half years is a 1.5 per cent decline in non-food items. The BRC cites clothing, which is an essential, but also electrical goods, new furniture and floor coverings, which aren't.

Food price inflation is declining – from 2.9 per cent to 2.4 per cent – but prices are still going up at a faster rate than the incomes of those at the bottom of society.

It does mean that interest rates can comfortably remain on hold, and Mr Carney may like to consider whether it mightn't be such a bad idea to make a firm commitment that this will be the case for some time.

That certainly will be a relief to homeowners, who are also benefiting from a highly competitive mortgage market.

Not so those at the bottom. They typically rent and have trouble getting credit, being prey to the sort of firms whose usurious charges are little influenced by base rates.

The weather may be warming up, but the outlook is still chilly for those who are struggling in modern Britain.