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January sales drop compounds Brexit slowdown fears

17 February 2017, 02:12 | Taylor George

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that retail volumes dropped by 0.3 per cent compared with the previous month.

Retail sales have now fallen for three months in a row for the first time in two decades.

Economists had been pencilling in a figure of 1 per cent growth.

The pound deepened its losses against the greenback after retail sales missed expectations, dropping 0.5% to 1.241 USA dollars. Sterling extended its declines against the US dollar following the release, trading 0.52% lower at 1.2422 by 09:45 GMT.

Inflation hit a 31-month high of 1.8 percent in January and is expected to rise further on higher import prices.

The ONS said said that higher food and fuel prices for shoppers were "significant factors in this slowdown". Since the initial Brexit vote, the United Kingdom economy has remained surprisingly resilient causing some to speculate whether Britain's exit from the European Union would cause too much disruption. But economists have always been warning that from 2017 they will no longer be able to do so and the United Kingdom economy could be in for a turbulent year as consumer sentiment fades.

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'Consumer fundamentals remained largely healthy until recently, but purchasing power is now being meaningfully squeezed by markedly rising inflation. Average prices of retail goods sold in January grew 1.9 percent, the biggest annual increase since July 2013.

Over the a year ago average petrol pump prices jumped by 16.1%, squeezing household budgets.

The ONS said: "In more recent periods, prices in food stores have started to rise gradually, which could have resulted in a fall in the quantity bought".

The lacklustre retail report from the ONS follows an equally disappointing December, when volumes fell 1.9pc month-on-month.

"The theme for most forecasters this year is that consumer spending is going to suffer as higher prices erode real incomes".



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