Official retail sales figures for November are also down for release this morning. Headline sales fell 0.2% in the month in volume terms in October and were 0.9% lower in the year, giving a disappointing start to the fourth quarter. <p>

Excluding motor trades, sales were flat in the month but were 1.6% down on October 2012. A key issue going forward will be the state of the labour market, and the signs are encouraging on this front. A continuation in the trend of falling unemployment in the coming months will eventually be reflected in stronger retail sales in our view. <p>

<b>After decreasing by 0.7% on average on an annual basis in the first half of the year, the third quarter was much stronger, with headline sales in July-September 2.8% higher than the same period in 2012, which could be enough to see a positive out-turn for 2013 as a whole despite the weak start to Q4. <p>

Meanwhile, a monthly increase of 0.5% is projected for November, which would give an annual rise of 1.8%.
<p><h5>Alan McQuaid</h5>


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