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UK retail sales inch up in July, auto fuels drop

[LONDON] British retail sales rose by less than expected in July, hit by a fall in the sales of auto fuels, official data showed on Thursday.

Retail sales volumes inched up 0.1 per cent on the month to show 4.2 per cent growth on the year.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise 0.4 per cent and for sales to be up 4.4 per cent compared with July last year.

Excluding fuel, sales rose 0.4 per cent on the month and 4.3 per cent compared to a year ago, as expected.

A 2.6 per cent fall in auto fuel sales was partly offset by a 3.6 per cent rise in the sales of household goods. The ONS said the sales of household electrical appliances and furniture rose strongly on the month, probably reflecting a pick-up in Britain's housing market.

Retail sales suffered an unexpected dip in June as consumers bought fewer household goods. Britain's economy, which slowed in the first three months of 2015, relies heavily on consumer demand for growth.

A pick-up in wage growth this year and near-zero inflation have helped to restore some of the spending power lost in the years after the financial crisis.

A recent rise in the value of the pound and a renewed plunge in global oil prices have further helped consumers, but Bank of England officials say they are increasingly looking at domestic price pressures to assess the timing of the first rate hike in more than seven years.