UK Retail Sales Surge by 3.4% in January Beating Forecasts

UK Retail Sales Report – January 2024

The UK economy was under the spotlight on Friday. UK retail sales surged by 3.4% in January after sliding by 3.3% in December. Economists forecast retail sales to increase by 1.5% in January.

According to the Office for National Statistics,

  • Food store sales volumes increased by 3.4% in January, reversing a 3.1% decline from December.
  • Non-food store sales rose by 3.0% after sliding by 3.9% in December.
  • Department store and other non-food store sales increased by 5.4% and 6.2%, respectively.
  • Automotive fuel sales were up 5.4% month-on-month.

Despite the December rebound, retail sales were down 0.2% in the three months to January compared with the previous three months. Year-on-year, retail sales were up 0.7% but remained 1.3% below pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).

Bank of England Monetary Policy Implications

The rebound in UK retail sales could influence Bank of England discussions about interest rate cuts. An upward trend in consumer spending could fuel demand-driven inflation.

Tighter UK labor market conditions added to monetary policy uncertainty this week. The UK unemployment rate unexpectedly fell from 3.9% to 3.8% in December. A downward trend in unemployment could support wage growth, a Bank of England bugbear in tackling inflation.

Softer-than-expected UK inflation numbers and the UK economy falling into a technical recession leave the markets grappling with greater monetary policy uncertainty.

GBP/USD Reaction to the UK Retail Sales Report

Before the UK retail sales report, the GBP/USD rose to a high of $1.26050 before falling to a low of $1.25767.

However, in response to the retail sales numbers, the GBP/USD fell to a low of $1.25819 before climbing to a high of $1.26057.

On Friday, the GBP/USD was down 0.06% to $1.25920.

GBP/USD reacts to UK retail sales report
160224 GBPUSD 3 Minute Chart

Up Next: US Producer Prices, Consumer Sentiment, and Fed Speakers

On Friday, US producer prices and the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index will draw investor interest. Upward trends in producer prices could signal a pickup in demand-driven inflation.

Economists forecast producer prices to increase by 0.1% in January after falling by 0.1% in December.

A rise in consumer confidence could signal a positive trend in consumer spending. The net effect could be a higher-for longer Fed rate path to curb consumer spending and dampen demand-driven inflation.

Economists forecast the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index to increase from 79.0 to 80.0 in February. Beyond the headline figure, investors must consider the sub-components, including inflation.

However, investors must also monitor FOMC member speakers. FOMC members Michael Barr and Mary Daly are on the calendar to speak. Support for patience vis-à-vis interest rate cuts could impact bets on an H1 2024 Fed rate cut.

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