U.K. retail sales unexpectedly fall
U.K. retail sales unexpectedly fell in January for a second consecutive month as cold weather kept consumers at home and incomes remained under pressure, hurting spending on food, household goods and auto fuel. Sales including fuel fell 0.6% from December, when they dropped a revised 0.3%, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The median forecast of 24 economists in a recent survey was for a 0.5% increase. From a year earlier, sales declined 0.6%. Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said this week that inflation may accelerate in the coming months, intensifying a squeeze on consumers that has curbed spending. The pound was little changed against the U.S. dollar at $1.5488 late Friday morning in London. The yen strengthened for a fourth day against the dollar and the euro weakened as Group of 20 finance chiefs and central bankers begin talks in Moscow today. Food sales fell to their lowest level since April 2004 in January, declining 1.6% on the month and 2.6% from a year earlier, the statistics office said. Sales of household goods dropped 0.3% from December and sales of auto fuel declined 2%. Sales of clothing and footwear rose 0.4%. Non-store sales including internet purchases fell 0.5%. Excluding fuel, retail sales declined 0.5% and were up 0.2% from a year earlier. The fall in sales in December was larger than the 0.1% initially estimated. In the three months through January, U.K. sales dropped 0.8%, the biggest decline since the first quarter of 2010. The British economy shrank 0.3% in the last three months of 2012 and is facing the threat of an unprecedented triple-dip recession. Still, purchasing-management surveys for January showed expansion in both manufacturing and services, which together account for almost 90% of gross domestic product.
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