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UK monthly retail sales rise more than expected in February

U.K. retail sales rose 0.8% in February as sales increased in all main sectors except nonfood stores, the Office for National Statistics said.

The increase was above Econoday's consensus estimate of a 0.6% rise and followed two consecutive monthly declines.

"However, the underlying three-month picture is one of falling sales, mainly due to strong declines across all main sectors in December," said Rhian Murphy, senior statistician at the ONS.

The volume of retail sales decreased 0.4% in the three months to February, compared with the previous three months.

"Store prices continue to rise across all store types, but at a lower rate than the previous month due to a slowdown in price growth, though clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises," Murphy said.

Sales increased 1.5% in February from the same month a year ago. Excluding automotive fuel, sales increased 1.1% year over year.

The latest figures show consumers are reducing their nonessential purchases and incomes in real terms are not expected to rise meaningfully in the near term despite improvement in wage growth and easing inflation, said James Smith, developed markets economist at ING Research.

"But while this will keep the brakes on growth this year, the Bank of England will be focused squarely on wage growth as they meet today," Smith said.