Inflation looks set to fall back below its 2% target by the end of the year after dropping to 3.4% in February, down from 3.6% in January.
The largest downward pressures on the consumer prices index came from domestic electricity and gas, recreation and culture and transport, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
Partially offsetting these were upward pressures from sales of alcohol and vegetables.
The retail prices index fell to 3.7% in February, down from 3.9% in January. The largest downward pressures came from motoring costs and domestic power, which were partially offset by upward pressure from alcoholic drinks.
Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, says the downward trend in the headline rate is likely to pause over the next couple of months and might even rise in March because of an increase in food prices and petrol.
But she adds: “This should be temporary. Inflation is still likely to fall sharply in the second half of the year as last year’s rises in utility prices stop boosting the annual comparison and lower cotton prices pull down clothing inflation.”