Green shoots for retailers and the housing industry

CONSUMER spending has been “a little more resilient than expected” in the opening months of the year, a survey from the Bank of England revealed yesterday.

While consumer demand was only growing “at a gradual pace”, the summary of business conditions offers a glimmer of hope for the economic recovery.

“Annual growth of spending on consumer services had also edged a little higher this month [February],” the report said.

Another struggling section of the UK economy – housing – has also seen a pick up in activity, the Bank’s agents said.

“There had been some further improvement in the housing market, with fairly frequent reports of an increase in viewings, offers and transactions,” the report said, yet warned that activity still remained relatively low.

The research also warned that the pick up may partly be due to a jump in activity before the end of temporary stamp duty relief for first time buyers.

There was a rise in people buying properties in order to rent them out, as an investment, encouraged by the increase in rents. However the trend may be about to wane, the survey suggested, as “some contacts reported that the pace of increase in rents had slowed as more supply had become available”.