Slowdown fears ease as sales rise

THERE WERE fresh signs yesterday that the British economy is back on track as retailers reported rising sales and a survey of the UK financial sector revealed sharp increases in optimism.

The British Retail Consortium said that, like-for-like, sales last month were 3.9 per cent higher than in the period last year, and total sales were up 7.3 per cent. The opening of the giant Bluewater shopping centre in Kent boosted the retail numbers, while good weather helped sales of spring clothes and do-it-yourself products.

But the BRC cautioned that the timing of the Easter weekend - earlier this year than last - may have distorted the figures. Excluding sales in the week before Easter, like-for-like sales were up by just 0.9 per cent.

The Confederation of British Industry said confidence in UK financial institutions improved for the first time in a year after a marked pick- up in business volumes.

The latest CBI/PricewaterhouseCoopers financial services survey found that 38 per cent of firms were more optimistic in March than in December, with 14 per cent more pessimistic, for a net balance of 24 per cent of optimistic firms, compared with a balance of minus 27 per cent in December and minus 54 per cent in September.

Sudhir Junankar, CBI's associate director of economic analysis, said: "Financial service firms have started to shake off their slowdown fears. Confidence seems to be returning following the lows of the second half of last year, which then reflected concern about world financial turmoil and the apparent threat of a UK recession."

Financial services firms reported a pick-up in overall business, with a balance of 32 per cent expecting this growth to continue into the next quarter. Almost all sectors anticipated significant growth, the CBI said, particularly banks and life insurers. General insurers and building societies were among the few groups expecting volumes to decline.

Employment rose at its fastest rate since the fourth quarter of 1997. However, most companies expected to cut jobs in the next three months.

Mr Junankar said that financial services profitability rose as expected in the first quarter, but the squeeze on margins at banks is expected to persist through the next three months. The profits outlook for building societies was said to be brighter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding Insurance Brokerag...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders