The latest data showed a significant miss for retail sales, which fell 0.3pc in February – well below the 0.5pc growth forecast.
Sales had rebounded strongly in January, but the impact has fallen away as lockdown restrictions eased and consumers start to tighten the purse strings.
Separate data showed consumer confidence slumped to -31 in March – the lowest since the second Covid lockdown in November 2020.
The outlook is only set to darken, with surging inflation, a jump in energy bills and higher taxes all contributing to a cost-of-living crisis.
5 things to start your day
1) Boris Johnson tries to freeze Putin’s $ 140bn gold stash Western leaders look to block one of the Kremlin’s last ways of navigating around the West’s brutal economic sanctions
2) Spiralling prices risk sparking riots across Britain, warns French bank BNP Paribas says UK economy is among Europe’s most fragile
3) Apple mulls pay-as-you-go iPhones The move would encourage users to upgrade their phones more regularly
4) Michael Grade, critic of the ‘woke brigade’, named Ofcom chairman Former ITV and Channel 4 chief has branded the £ 159 license fee a “regressive tax”
5) Oxford teenager among seven arrested over Lapsus $ cyberhacks Group has hit companies such as Microsoft and Nvidia, with one member reportedly a teenager living with his parents
What happened overnight
Asian shares were headed for a second successive week of gains on Friday, though trading was choppy amid hawkish US monetary policy, shifts in Chinese economic policy, and ongoing ructions in commodity markets due to the war in Ukraine.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded flat, but it’s up one per cent on the week.
Japan’s Nikkei was also little changed having closed the previous day at a nine-week high.
Hong Kong shares were a drag on the regional benchmark, falling 0.5pc, weighed down by tech stocks, as US and Hong Kong dual-listed names took a hit from renewed fears that a row over audit records will force them to delist in the United States.
Australian stocks rose 0.4pc helped by miners, while Chinese blue chips lost 0.4pc.
Coming up today
- Corporate: Smiths (interim); United Utilities (trading statement)
- Economics: Retail sales (UK); Ifo Business Climate Index (Germany)