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Economy in Brief

More Retailers in the U.K. Report Increases in Sales versus a Year Ago than Those Reporting Decreases
by Louise Curley April 28, 2009

There was some good news for the U.K. in the latest Confederation of Business Industries (CBI) Survey of the Distributive Trades. More respondents reported increases in retail sales over a year ago than those reporting decreases. Although the balance was small--3%--it was the first positive result since the 1% balance in March 2008 and represented a dramatic reversal from the large negative balances of 25%-55% recorded in the last four months. It was, moreover, unexpected. The same respondents had expected April to show a negative balance of 47% and they still expect a negative balance of 15% for May. The first chart shows the reported and expected percent balances for retail trade.

While still reporting negative balances for wholesale business, the balance for April was -18% well below the negatives balances recorded earlier in the year and below the -56% expected for April. Wholesalers, however, continue pessimistic and are expecting decreases in sales relative to a year ago will exceed increases by 23% in May. The second chart shows the reported and expected percent balances for wholesale trade.

Reported sales in the motor trades showed a negative balance of 16%, compared with a negative balance of only 6% in March. The reported figures have, in recent months, been much better than the expected results. A negative balance of 48% was expected for April versus the -16% that was reported. A negative balance of 62% is expected for May. The third chart shows the reported and expected percent balances for the motor trade.

Percent Balance May 09 Apr 09 Mar 08 Feb 09  Jan 09 Dec 08 
Retail Reported  -- 3 -44 -25 -47 -55
    Expected  -15 -47 -33 -52 -49 -40
Wholesale Reported -- -18 -65 -47 -91 -25
    Expected -23 -56 -46 -37 -30 -57
Motor Trades Reported -- -16 -6 -50 -68 -100
    Expected -62 -48 -59 -57 -87 -98
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