The rate of inflation has eased slightly to 6.7% confounding the predictions of economists that it would rise.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the consumer prices index (CPI) measure slowed in the 12 months to August, from the 6.8% figure reported the previous month, thanks to food rising at a weaker pace during the month compared to August 2022.
The pace of price growth in the economy, which has eased from a peak of 11.1% just under a year ago, was placed under the greatest pressure by surging global oil costs – being felt across the economy but most visibly at fuel forecourts.
Economists had predicted that inflation would tick upwards to 7.1% and that core inflation, which is closely watched by the Bank of England as it strips out volatile elements such as food and energy costs, would be largely unchanged.
However, the ONS reported a steep decline in the core inflation measure from 6.9% to 6.2%.
The shift will be seen as reason for optimism by the Bank’s rate-setters that its 14 consecutive interest rate hikes to date, to cool inflation, are having an effect.
Ahead of the inflation data, the vast majority of economists and financial markets had expected a final hike of 0.25 percentage points to be imposed by the Bank on Thursday.
The rosier picture for inflation now casts greater doubt on whether an increase is guaranteed, giving some hope to hard-pressed borrowers including mortgage holders who have seen their payments mount during the cost of living crisis to date.
Reduced rate hike expectations were evident on financial markets as the pound lost ground against both the dollar and the euro.
ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner said of the latest data: “The rate of inflation eased slightly this month driven by falls in the often-erratic cost of overnight accommodation and air fares, as well as food prices rising by less than the same time last year.
“This was partially offset by an increase in the price of petrol and diesel compared with a steep decline at this time last year, following record prices seen in July 2022.
“Core inflation has slowed this month by more than the headline rate, driven by lower services prices.”
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