UK retail sales rebound in April

- Agence France-Presse, LONDON

May 19, 2017-British retail sales rebounded strongly in April, as warmer weather boosted purchases of food and household items, official data showed on Thursday.

Sales by volume jumped by 2.3 percent last month after dropping by 1.4 percent in March, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

“Anecdotal evidence from retailers suggests that good weather contributed to growth,” the ONS said.

The data comes three weeks before the country’s general election and after official UK figures in recent days showed weak wages growth, falling unemployment and rising inflation.

“Given yesterday’s news that real wages are now falling, today’s retail sales data was always going to be closely scrutinised,” said Ben Brettell, senior economist at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The theory went that squeezed household budgets would likely hit retailers in the pocket too. But in fact the (retail sales) figures beat expectations handsomely.”

Analysts’ consensus forecast had been for a smaller rebound in April of 1.0 percent.

“April’s UK retail sales figures should help to allay concerns that real consumer spending growth is slowing sharply in the face of higher inflation,” said Ruth Gregory, UK economist at Capital Economics research group.

While Britain’s economy has performed better than expected since the country voted last year for Brexit, recent data is pointing to weaker growth as the country negotiates its exit from the European Union. 

One concern is that rising inflation, caused in large part by weak sterling pushing up import costs, could see the Bank of England move to raise record-low interest rates faster than expected. Prime Minister Theresa May is forecast to strengthen her Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority in the June 8 election.

Published: 19-05-2017 09:23

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