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UK Retail Sales Unexpectedly Fall In October

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UK retail sales decreased in October as a now-delayed Brexit deadline approached, defying expectations for an increase, and suggest a soft start for household spending in the fourth quarter.

Including automotive fuel, retail sales decreased 0.1 percent monthly in October after a 0.2 percent decline in the previous month, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed on Thursday. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent increase.

Food sales fell 0.2 percent monthly and non-food store sales decreased 0.3 percent.

In the three months to October, sales grew 0.2 percent from the previous three months. The pace of growth was the lowest since April 2018, and eased sharply from the 0.6 percent seen in the three months to September.

Among components, only food stores logged sales growth, 0.8 percent, in the three-month on three-month comparison, the ONS said.

"Department store sales rebounded in October, driven by promotional events and an earlier introduction of Christmas lines," an ONS spokesperson said.

"However, their sales still remain significantly down over the longer term."
Retail sales excluding automotive fuel decreased 0.3 percent month-on-month, while economists had forecast a 0.2 percent increase.

Retail sales including automotive fuel rose 3.1 percent year, same as in the previous month. Economists had forecast 3.7 percent growth.

On a year-on-year basis, retail sales excluding automotive fuel grew 2.7 percent after a 2.9 percent climb in the previous month. Economists had forecast 3.4 percent gain.

"October's fall in retail sales volumes was especially concerning as stores refrained from raising prices at all," Capital Economics economist Thomas Pugh said.

"This heightens the risk that consumer spending growth could slow in Q4 from Q3's 0.4 percent q/q, adding further woe to the beleaguered retail sector."

Figures released at the start of this week showed that the UK economy avoided a recession in the third quarter and household spending, up 0.4 percent, was one of the main contributors to growth.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2 percent in October from the 19.0 percent reported in September.

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