LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - Unusually cold weather hurt British retail sales in March, official data showed on Thursday, confirming the fragile state of the country's economy in the first three months of 2013.
RETAIL SALES VOLUME MARCH FEB FORECAST
Monthly s/adj change -0.7 2.1 (2.1) -0.8
Year-on-year change -0.5 2.5 (2.6) -0.6
3mth/3mth 0.4 -0.2 (-0.2)
Sales excl. fuel mm -0.8 2.1 (1.9) -0.5
Sales excl. fuel yy 0.4 3.2 (3.3) 0.9
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BRIAN HILLIARD, SOCIETE GENERALE
'It does appear clear that the cold weather was the culprit, food sales are still up strongly, everything else was down after a strong month in February. So I think even though I was disappointed compared to my own exectations, I think we shouldn't get carried away and read too much gloomy into this. ... It will weaken Q1 consumption numbers and that's again a disappointment which might lower people's expectations for Q1 GDP.'
MARTIN BECK, CAPITAL ECONOMICS
'Clothing sales suffered particularly from March's freeze, down 3.1 percent on the month, while purchases of household goods saw a 6.4 percent drop. Nevertheless, March's figure still leaves retail sales volumes up 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to -0.5 percent in Q4 2012. And the performance of non-retail spending (which accounts for two-thirds of consumer purchases) seems to have held up reasonably well since the beginning of the year.
'Given that the drop in March's retail sales appears to have been weather-related, April may see a bounce-back. But, given a run of weak output data, today's retail news still doesn't rule out the possibility that the ONS will announce that the economy is once again back in recession when GDP data for Q1 is released next Thursday.'
ROSS WALKER, RBS
'They're pretty much as expected. The main story here is just retracing some of the unusual strength in February. The monthly numbers here can be extremely volatile, we have Easter timing complications and maybe the weather had some effect as well.
'So the three months volumes growth of 0.4 percent is moderately encouraging, and I think it should help to underpin some resumption of GDP growth in Q1.'
AMIT KARA, UBS
'The headline print was broadly in line with market expectation. But looking ahead, the picture is rather mixed - we have employment gains fading off now and labour earnings data is very weak. But on the flip side, there is some relief from lower oil and commodities prices which will provide a little bit of respite. But in the big picture, households are likely to continue to struggle this year.
'This is part of the downward adjustment of lifestyles that is the structural feature of this downturn that we're suffering.'
PETER DIXON, COMMERZBANK
'In terms of the headline figures, they were broadly in line with expectations, with a decline of 0.7 percent. You have to see this in the context of the sharp rise in February, so we shouldn't have been too surprised they fell.
'For Q1 as a whole, the numbers were marginally positive, so that gives us some hope that we may be able to avoid a contraction in Q1 GDP when the numbers are released next week.'
ALAN CLARKE, SCOTIABANK
'It's obviously disappointing that it's down just under a percentage point on the month, but given that it jumped by 2 percent the previous month it was always going to give back some of that prior strength. Beyond the near term volatility, the underlying trend is ok.'
PHILIP SHAW, INVESTEC
'It's close to consensus, so not a huge surprise. Sales do seem to have been affected by the very cold March, as evidenced by the 3.1 percent drop on the month in sales from clothing stores. One hopes April will see a rebound from these figures.'
(Reporting by Kate Holton, Paul Sandle, Shadia Nasralla and Christina Fincher) Keywords: BRITAIN RETAIL/
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