• In the UK, retail sales posted a 0.6% rise in March compared with February, defying economists’ predictions of an increase around 0.2%.
The increase (4.3% year-on-year) puts a positive end on a gloomy first quarter, during which retail sales rose just 0.1% – the slowest growth since the end of 1998.
And judging by a separate survey, Britons are displaying more forward optimism. A barometer of consumer sentiment from GfK Martin Hamblin shot up from minus ten to minus five in April, following the swift end to the war.
• There was also evidence of this ‘Baghdad bounce’ in the US, where the Conference Board’s closely watched index of consumer confidence posted its biggest gain in twelve years, rising 19.1 points to 81.
• In France, however, there was no such rebound for business confidence, which fell for the second successive month in April according to government statistics.
The news coincides with gloomy revised figures for fourth-quarter GDP. France’s economy was previously thought to have grown slightly in Q4, but now the official statistics show a 0.1% decline. Growth had been slowing steadily across 2002, from +0.7% in Q1 to +0.5% in Q2 and +0.3% in Q3. Moreover, the budget deficit for the full year grew to 3.1% of GDP, breaching the Eurozone’s upper limit of 3%.
Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff