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Sales figures beat estimates

UK retail sales rose by much more than expected in February, after tumbling in January, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics said yesterday that UK retail sales volumes had jumped by 1.7% month-on-month in February, on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

The City had predicted a rise of 0.5%.

However, the month-on-month drop in sales volumes in January was revised from 1.5% to 2%.

The ONS said the volume of food sales jumped by 2.1% month-on-month in February. Non-food sales rose by 0.6%.

There was a 7.9% month-on-month leap in volumes in the non-store category, which takes in online sales.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at consultancy IHS Global Insight, said: "This was a far stronger rebound than expected, even allowing for the fact that January's dip was revised."

Retail sales volumes in the December to February period were up 1.6% on the preceding three months.

Mr Archer added: "Retail sales are well on course to see robust growth in the first quarter."

Samuel Tombs, UK economist at Capital Economics, said: "(The) figures may fuel concerns that the economic recovery is too dependent on an unsustainable consumer spending binge.

"But with real pay set to pick up imminently and employment intentions strengthening, the foundations for the recovery in consumer spending should be more solid soon."

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