Retail sales growth beats expectations in February

 
Peter Spence
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Latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics show some strong numbers for retail this February.

Up 1.7 after growth of -2.0 per cent last month, that's much higher than economists had expected.

Consensus estimates suggested we'd see growth of just 0.5 per cent this month.

HSBC say that while recent lower growth might look like a slowdown, "the base effect from December's unusually high growth remains in play."

The uptrend is still in place, suggesting that strong private consumption will continue "through the first quarter". In the year to February retail sales have increased by 3.7 per cent.

And price cuts, particularly in the grocer sector, "will benefit customers in future months", says Lloyds' head of retail Keith Richardson. "Retailers will look to the arrival of spring as a further opportunity to maintain positive momentum."

There's some suggestion that these figures should be taken with a grain of salt. John Hardy, head of FX Strategy at Saxo Bank points to the recent "highly disruptive weather this winter in the British isles".

The pound has gained strength after the release, rising against the dollar from $1.6570 to $1.6637.

The ONS says that of every pound spent in retail, 42p was spent in food stores, 41p in non-food stores, and 6p online.