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UK Retail Sales up

The pound hit daily highs after data showing that UK retail sales rose at a far faster pace than expected last month as investors await the outcome of the Bank of England’s monetary policy meeting later in the day.

Retail sales jumped 1.1% in November, up from 0.5% in October and well ahead of economists’ forecasts of a 0.4% rise, the Office for National Statistics reported.

Sales were boosted as shoppers took advantage of Black Friday bargains but the report also indicated that the underlying trend was weaker.

Sales in the three months to November grew by just 1.0% compared with a year earlier, the weakest since May 2013.

The report also pointed to rising inflation pressures, with average shop prices up 3.1% in November from a year earlier.

The fall in the pound since last year’s Brexit vote has fueled inflation by pushing up the cost of imported goods. With inflation outstripping wage growth pressure on household spending is likely to worsen which could dampen growth.

Investors are looking ahead to the BoE announcement later today, with no change expected after a rate hike last month. Instead, investors will be focusing on the meeting minutes for hints of further action in 2018 and the bank’s view on Brexit.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected at its meeting on Wednesday and left its interest rate projections for 2018 unchanged.

In the eurozone, data this morning showed that the economy picked up further momentum at the end of 2017, with December seeing the fastest growth in business activity in almost seven years.

The European Central Bank is expected to keep rates on hold following their meeting later today, with investors awaiting any fresh forward guidance from ECB chief Mario Draghi on the bank’s bond-buying program.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will urge European Union leaders to approve an agreement to move Brexit talks on to a second phase this evening, just hours after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat at home that weakens her hand.

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