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Royal Wedding, Sunny Weather Boosted U.K. Retail Sales in May

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06/14/2018 | 10:54am CEST

By David Hodari and Jason Douglas

LONDON--U.K. retail sales remained resilient in May, with the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle combining with sunny weather to contribute to sturdy sales growth.

Thursday's upbeat figures were a rare bright spot amid recent tepid economic data, signalling economic growth in sharp contrast to the gloom from Monday's weak manufacturing figures.

With consumer price index numbers--released Wednesday--remaining steady in May, Thursday's retail figures may strengthen the Bank of England's case for raising interest rates.

Retail sales rose 1.3% in May compared with April, the Office for National Statistics said.

The royal event helped drive spending increases in the U.K.'s food and household goods stores, the office said.

Those numbers outperformed the forecasts of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal, who predicted only a 0.3% uptick in sales for May.

The BOE has suggested it will increase rates two or three times over the coming years, with jitters over Brexit having weighed on sentiment in previous quarters and the U.K.'s economic growth lagging behind those of its peers.

In contrast to the BOE's cautious approach, the U.S. Federal Reserve opted to increase interest rates late on Wednesday. The Fed also said it has expanded the number of increases it expects to make this year in hawkish commentary.

Investors are looking ahead to the European Central Bank's policy announcement at 1145 GMT, when the central bank is expected to provide clarity as to whether Italy's recent political strife has affected its plans to end its massive bond-buying program in the second half of 2018.

Write to David Hodari at david.hodari@wsj and Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

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