The annual rate of inflation has surprisingly risen, official figures show.
The consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation stood at 4% in the year to December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). A fall, to 3.8%, had been expected by economists polled by Reuters.
But instead inflation rose from 3.9% in the year to November.
The full effects of increased shipping costs due to Red Sea diversions, amid Houthi fighter vessel attacks, will not have been captured by the data, as shipping prices had the steepest rises towards the end of the month.
Such increases are not what the interest rate setters in the Bank of England will want to see when considering the interest rate.
The Bank raised the base interest rate 14 consecutive times up to August and then held rates at 5.25%, making lending more expensive, in an effort to bring down price rises.
Another measure of inflation of note to the rate setters has remained the same. Core inflation, which looks at price rises excluding volatile categories such as food and energy, stayed at 5.1%.
The inflation data comes as a number of chain retailers put more items on sale earlier. Industry data showed a third of all spending in the weeks up to Christmas was on items with some kind of offer.
Similarly, the pace of wage rises has slowed. Official figures published on Tuesday recorded that pay packets were growing at a reduced annual rate than previously – 6.6% compared to 7.3% a month earlier.
Responding to today’s figures Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said, “As we have seen in the US, France and Germany, inflation does not fall in a straight line, but our plan is working and we should stick to it.
“We took difficult decisions to control borrowing and are now turning a corner, so we need to stay the course we have set out, including boosting growth with more competitive tax levels.”