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UPDATE 1-UK card spending rises to highest since Christmas

Thu, 8th Apr 2021 11:08

(Adds data on furlough, businesses' trading)

By David Milliken

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - British households' spending on
credit and debit cards rose strongly to 88% of its pre-pandemic
average in the week to April 1, its highest since the week
before Christmas, the Office for National Statistics said on
Thursday.

The figures are not seasonally adjusted, and the ONS said
some of the increase was driven by end-of-month spending on
households bills and food shopping.

But they add to signs that the economy is beginning to pick
up as coronavirus restrictions being to ease following the
roll-out of vaccines to more than half of Britain's adult
population.

Payment processor Barclaycard said on Wednesday that
spending at golf courses jumped five-fold last week after they
reopened to the public, and also reported more contactless
payments which it linked to people buying picnic supplies.

Construction activity last month recorded its biggest jump
since 2014, as businesses restarted mothballed projects in
anticipation of shops, pubs and restaurants reopening next week,
and recruiters reported the biggest increase in hiring of
permanent staff in six years.

This week the International Monetary Fund revived up its
growth forecast for Britain this year to 5.3%, but it does not
see Britain's economy recovering its pre-crisis size until next
year, much slower than the U.S. and Japanese economies.

The Bank of England expects rapid initial growth but has
warned that there could be a long overhang of unemployment and
underemployment after government support is withdrawn.

The ONS said firms reported that 19% of businesses' staff
were on furlough in mid March. This is equivalent to 6 million
people and well above levels of 11% in early December, before
COVID restrictions were tightened to slow the spread of a more
infectious variant of the disease.

Some 75.1% of businesses replying to the ONS survey said
that they were currently trading as of April 4, up 1.3
percentage points from the previous two-week period, while 22.2%
of firms said they were closed temporarily.
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)

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