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British retail sales down 0.1 percent in October

British retail sales down 0.1 percent in October

British retail sales fell only slightly in October, official figures showed Thursday, despite mounting evidence from retailers such as Woolworths PLC and Marks & Spencer PLC, that business conditions are extremely tough.
The Office for National Statistics said retail sales were only down 0.1 percent in October from the previous month, better than the 0.5 percent decline recorded in September. Analysts had anticipated a 0.9 percent drop in October.
On an annual basis, retail sales were 1.9 percent higher, up from September's 1.7 percent rate. The figures may surprise many as they come just a day after general retailer Woolworths revealed it is looking to sell its stores and Marks & Spencer said it is slashing its prices by 20 percent Thursday in an attempt to pull in shoppers in the runup to Christmas.
Retailers across the board have indicated that consumers have reined in spending amid mounting unemployment and falling house prices, while the slide in the value of the pound in the currency markets has raised the cost of buying goods from overseas.
Separately, the statistics office said the British government was in debt during the month of October for the first time since 1994 largely because of larger interest payments on debts and higher government spending.
Public sector net borrowing _ the British government's preferred measure of the public finances _ was 1.4 billion pounds ($940 million) during the month against the previous year's equivalent of a 1.8 billion pound surplus. October is usually a surplus month as government coffers are swelled by quarterly business taxes.
Net debt as a proportion of Britain's gross domestic product stood at 42.9 percent in October. That's up on the 40 percent limit the Labour government imposed on taking power in 1997.
The public finance figures come ahead of Monday's expected announcements of tax relief from the British government as it seeks to limit the extent of an expected economic recession.


Updated : 2021-10-19 04:59 GMT+08:00