The rate of inflation stayed at its highest level for almost a year in March, keeping up the squeeze on consumers.
The annual rate of consumer price inflation held at 2.8%, according to official data. That is the highest since last May and in line with economists' forecasts.
The Office for National Statistics said the biggest upward pressures last month came from price rises for newspapers, books and digital cameras - including the effect of dearer ebooks, a new item in the basket of goods used to calculate inflation. There was only muted relief from fuel prices which rose by less than a year ago and some easing in food price inflation.
The Treasury welcomed the steadying in headline inflation, and economists said recent falls in the oil price and other commodities could mean the rate will not rise as much as previously feared in coming months. But most still expect it to tick higher from here, as does the Bank of England.
"New Bank governor Mark Carney will be welcomed by inflation that is likely to have breached 3% on his appointment in the summer alongside – perhaps most worrying – rising inflation expectations," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
With wage growth running at little more than 1% on average, the headline inflation rate is expected to squeeze consumer spending power and dampen growth prospects in coming months.
Inflation has been running above the Bank of England's 2% target for the past four years and the central bank believes it will rise further to around 3% during 2013.
Minutes from the BoE's latest policy meeting will be published on Wednesday, revealing to what extent its nine-member monetary policy committee remains split over whether to inject more electronic cash to stimulate the economy.
The Treasury sought to play down the pressure on households and noted inflation was now almost half its peak of 5.2%. A spokesperson added: "The government has taken continued action to help households with the cost of living, including increasing the tax-free personal allowance and freezing fuel duty for nearly three and a half years."
There was some support for the view that inflation will be kept in check over coming months from separate official data showing prices at the factory gate posted their smallest annual rise since last July, helped by a drop in the price paid for crude oil. Output price inflation was in line with City forecasts at 2% in March, the ONS said.
But Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, outlined several factors that could raise headline inflation.
"Upward pressure on inflation is still likely to come from sterling's sharp drop in the early months of this year pushing up import prices, as well as from recently increased energy tariffs and still elevated food prices. In addition, water bills will go up shortly," he said.
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