UK retail sales decline again
The pound has edged higher today, shrugging off soft UK releases. Retail sales for May fell 0.5%, and declined 4.7% YoY, below the estimate of -4.5% (-5.7% prior). It was a similar story for core retail sales, which came in at -5.7% YoY, worse than the forecast of -5.1% (-6.1% prior).
The sharp declines in consumer spending should not come as a surprise, given the inflation squeeze which continues to drag down the UK economy. Consumer confidence numbers remain in deep-freeze, as GfK consumer confidence for May notched lower to -41 in June, down from -40 in May. The continuing rise in the cost of living has become a crisis for UK households, and the predictable result has been weaker consumer confidence and spending.
Inflation in the UK shows no signs of peaking, as headline CPI rose to 9.1% in May, up a notch from 9.0% in April. Inflation expectations are rising, and this week’s major rail strike could be an initial response from organized labour, which will not be satisfied with 3% wage hikes when inflation is closing in on double digits. The BoE hasn’t had succeeded in curbing inflation and expects inflation to top 11% later this year before finally easing. Unlike the Federal Reserve, the BoE has been reluctant to aggressively raise rates, with the BoE’s most recent hike of 0.25% paling in comparison to the Fed’s salvo of 0.75%.
Fed Chair Powell’s appearance on Capitol Hill this week was keenly watched by nervous markets. Powell didn’t hold back any punches, acknowledging that a recession was “certainly a possibility”, adding that a soft landing would be “very challenging”. Powell mentioned the usual suspects beyond the Fed’s control, namely, high commodity prices, supply chain issues and the Ukraine war. The Fed has not ruled out further 0.75% hikes, which will help curb inflation but could tip the economy into a recession.
- 1.2187 is providing support, followed by 1.1969
- GBP/USD continues to test resistance at 1.2283. Above, there is resistance at 1.2441
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