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U.K. Retail-Sales Index Unexpectedly Falls to Eight-Month Low

A U.K. retail-sales index unexpectedly fell this month led by clothing and home-improvement stores as cold weather deterred shoppers.

A gauge of annual sales growth slipped to minus 1 from zero in March, the London-based Confederation of British Industry business lobby group said today. That’s the weakest reading in eight months. Economists had forecast an increase to 8, according to the median of eight estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Retailers had also expected sales to grow this month.

Data tomorrow will show whether the U.K. fell into a triple-dip recession in the first quarter after the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the previous three months. Debenhams Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest department-store chain, said this month that consumer sentiment remains “weak” and market conditions are challenging.

“Retailers were frustrated this month by the ongoing stagnation,” said Barry Williams, chief merchandising officer for food at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda unit and head of the CBI’s distributive trades panel. “High street conditions are tricky with consumers lacking the confidence to go out and spend.”

A gauge of the volume of orders placed with suppliers dropped to minus 12 in April from minus 1 in March. A measure of sales volumes for the time of year fell to minus 27 from minus 20. Retailers expect the volume of sales to decline again in May, according to the report.

The CBI’s survey of 62 retailers was conducted between March 26 and April 10.

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