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UK economy shows signs of stability

FURTHER signs of stabilization in the UK economy emerged yesterday with the news that retail sales rose unexpectedly during June and a key survey of real estate professionals showed more optimism about house prices than at any time for two years.

The British Retail Consortium, a leading lobby group, said like-for-like retail sales - those that exclude new stores and floor space - were up 1.4 percent in June from the year before as warm early summer weather drove shoppers into stores for summer clothes and outdoor goods.

June's increase was unexpected - the markets were anticipating a modest decline - and more than the 0.8 percent fall recorded in May. It's also the third increase in six months.

"June's sunshine gave overall sales a much-needed boost," said Stephen Robertson, the BRC's director-general.

The BRC also said total sales - those that include new stores and space - rose 3.2 percent in the year to June, up from May's 0.8 percent.

Though the figures were encouraging, the BRC was careful not to call an end to retailers' difficulties, especially as the comparisons were boosted by weakness related to cooler weather last year. It also said uncertainty about jobs continued to keep a lid on big-ticket purchases.

Most economic forecasters reckon that the British economy will continue to contract for some time and that unemployment, already above 2 million, could head up toward the 3 million mark by the end of the year.

The strength of the British consumer is particularly important for the economic outlook and when Britain will emerge from the recession.


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