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Retailers hoping for clarity over sales figures

Nervous retailers will be desperately seeking clarity from official sales figures this week after conflicting research left economists baffled over whether the sector was recovering or slipping deeper into crisis.

Last week the British Retail Consortium said sales were growing at their weakest rate for a year, raising fears of a return to recession.

The figures were in stark contrast to a survey by employers' group the CBI the previous week, which showed most retailers claiming sales were at least as high as the same period last year, with almost half reporting a rise.

The Office for National Statistics will release its official view on Thursday, with retailers hoping the pattern will continue September's bright official figures.

The High Street is particularly keen for some good news after the collapse of electricals retailer Comet into administration.

George Buckley, UK chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said he was expecting a small rise in retail sales, but admitted things were volatile and hard to predict.

'This is really not much more than a toss of a coin,' he said. 'The numbers have been very volatile for a while now and I don't have much confidence it will become much clearer next week.'

Meanwhile, the official inflation rate is expected to be up when the ONS releases the latest Consumer Prices Index figure this week.

The CPI - the main measure of inflation targeted by the Bank of England - is set to have risen to 2.5 per cent for October, up from 2.2 per cent in September, according to analysts.

Official figures are tipped to show more people in work, although the number claiming unemployment benefit is expected to remain stubbornly high.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England's Quarterly Inflation Report on Wednesday will give its prediction for the outlook for prices. Its Monetary Policy Committee last week left interest rates unchanged.

Source : Simon Watkis –

12 November 2012
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