Retail sales growth slows

Retail sales growth eased in October from September's six-year high, but stayed well above average and at its second-highest level this year, a survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed.

The CBI's monthly distributive trades survey's reported sales balance dipped to +36 in October from +49 in September, broadly in line with economists' forecasts of a slowdown to +35.

The figures suggest that at least part of the British economy continued to perform strongly at the start of the fourth quarter of 2010, following unexpectedly strong GDP growth in the third quarter.

The expected sales balance for November pointed to further strong sales growth in the run-up to Christmas and ahead of a planned rise in value-added tax in January, with retailers predicting a reading of +43.

Strong sales growth was not just down to seasonal factors. October's sales balance for the time of year, at +20, was the highest since May 2007, and this was expected to remain the case in November.

However, the longer-term outlook was less encouraging.

"High street sales in aggregate have performed well again this month, but sales of durable household goods have slowed noticeably, in line with more subdued housing market activity of late," said CBI chief economic advisor Lai Wah Co.

"Retailers expect sales growth to continue next month in the run up to Christmas. We should also see more of a boost to sales as shoppers to beat the New Year VAT rise, but looking beyond that, broader consumer caution may temper growth in spending into 2011."