UK Retail Sales Surge by 3.4% in January Beating Forecasts

Bob Mason
Published: Feb 16, 2024, 07:25 UTC

UK retail sales data sends yet more mixed signals for the Bank of England to decipher. Softer inflation may not be enough to trigger rate-cut discussions.

UK Retail Sales

In this article:


  • UK retail sales surged by 3.4% in January.
  • Tighter labor market conditions and a jump in consumer spending could dampen hopes of the BoE beginning discussions about interest rate cuts.
  • Next up, US producer prices, consumer sentiment, and Fed speeches.

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.

About the Author

Bob Masonauthor

With over 20 years of experience in the finance industry, Bob has been managing regional teams across Europe and Asia and focusing on analytics across both corporate and financial institutions. Currently he is covering developments relating to the financial markets, including currencies, commodities, alternative asset classes, and global equities.

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