LONDON (AP) _ British retail prices rose 2.9 percent in December compared to a year earlier, the smallest increase in nine months, the government said Tuesday.

That compared to a 3.2 percent rise in November compared to November 1999.

The so-called underlying rate, which excludes mortgage interest rates, was up 2.0 percent in December, the Office for National Statistics said.

The Bank of England, which sets the base lending rate, aims to keep the underlying inflation rate at 2.5 percent or less.