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Sterling slipped against the dollar after data showed the biggest drop in British retail sales on record, adding to fears about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Official figures showed sales volumes fell by 5.1% in March, reflecting the hit from the coronavirus shutdown which closed many businesses in the second half of the month.

The fall, which was bigger than a median forecast for a drop of 4.0% in a poll of economists, came despite a surge in shopping for food.

A separate survey by polling firm GfK showed British consumer confidence held at its lowest since 2009 this month after tumbling in late March.

As Britain’s lockdown measures limit people’s ability to live, work and spend money as normal, economists expect the country to see its worst economic contraction in more than 300 years.

COVID-19 as a crisis has proved to be longer than expected, and investors are looking for some indication of what the UK government’s exit plan will look like.

Against a broadly weaker euro, sterling gained 0.1% to trade at 87.16 pence. The euro weakened as specifics on the size and structure of the funding for an emergency fund for the euro zone remained scant.

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