LONDON (Reuters) – Spending on payment cards in Britain last week stood 35% below pre-pandemic levels with the country in its third national COVID-19 lockdown, although the hit was not as severe as seen during parts of last year.
The Bank of England’s figures, published for the first time on Thursday, showed a sharp slowdown this month after a surge in spending during December, when parts of the economy reopened temporarily even though COVID-19 cases were soaring.
While spending during the week to Jan. 14 was running below its level during the previous lockdown in November, it was still some way above the levels during the first lockdown which began in March 2020.
“Spending fell in the week following Christmas, and has remained relatively low for ‘work-related’, ‘social’ and ‘delayable’ expenditure,” the Office for National Statistics, which published the data, said.
Other surveys have similarly pointed to renewed weakness in consumer confidence, with Britain likely now in a double-dip recession as it struggles to regain control of the virus, according to a Reuters poll of economists last week. [ECILT/GB]
The official death toll from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom is 93,290, the highest in Europe and the fifth worst in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.
Britain is rolling out vaccines faster than many of its peers, which should bode for a swift economic rebound later this year.
Demand looks likely to remain muted for now, however.
A separate BoE survey on Thursday showed lenders expect demand for mortgages to buy houses to fall slightly over the coming months but there will be more appetite for credit card borrowing and demand from medium and larger companies.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce and David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)