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Inflation remains unchanged at 2.3% as increasing food and clothing prices offset by falling flight and fuel costs

Inflation remains unchanged from February. Credit: PA

Inflation remained unchanged at 2.3% in March as a jump in the cost of food and clothing was offset by falling flight and fuel prices.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation stood unchanged from February's reading and in line with expectations.

The cost of living remains above the Bank of England's 2% target, putting pressure on the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to hike interest rates beyond 0.25% this year.

One of the main reasons why inflation did not rise was the fact that air fares fell by 3.9% between February and March after jumping by 22.9% last year.

3.9%
Air fares fell by 3.9% between February and March.

The move was driven by the timing of Easter, with Easter Sunday falling on March 27 in 2016 and on April 16 this year. The cost of flying soars around the Easter holiday period.

Fuel prices also stopped inflation from rising, with petrol dropping by 1p to 119.2p per litre between February and March, and diesel falling by 1.1p to 122.1p per litre over the period.

However, clothing and footwear costs rose by 2% between February and March in contrast to a 1% climb last year.

2%
Clothing and footwear costs rose by 2% between February and March.

The largest upward impact came from food and non-alcoholic beverages, climbing 0.4% between February and March after falling 0.6% over the same period in 2016.

The jump was driven at large by rising price tags for margarine and crisps.

The largest upward impact came from food and non-alcoholic beverages. Credit: PA

On the hike in food prices, the ONS said: "For the past two years, the price changes for food in the UK remained well below the other countries.

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

"However, all countries are now seeing an increase in food prices as a result of the upward trend in global food prices."

0.4%
The price of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 0.4% between February and March.

The Consumer Price Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH) also hit 2.3% in March, the same rate as February's reading.

CPIH is the ONS's preferred measure of inflation, which includes costs associated with living in, maintaining and owning a home.

The Retail Price Index (RPI), a separate measure of inflation which includes council tax and mortgage interest payments, fell to 3.1% in March, down from 3.2% in February.