Retail sales in the UK struggled to increase at the start of the year. 

The Office for National Statistics said sales grew at a rate of just 0.1% in the three months to the end of January. 

Economists had been expecting growth of half a percent. It appears that consumers are cutting back - particularly on food items - in the face of price hikes brought about by inflation - which is running at a rate of 3% across Britain.

The pound is headed for its best weekly performance in five months against a dollar down across the board, though retail sales took some of the shine off sterling.
           
The British currency was flat at $1.4096 after trading above $1.41 before the retail sales data was released. 

The pound had risen to a daily high of $1.4145 in Asian trading.
           
Against the euro, the pound traded down 0.2percent at 88.85 pence per euro.
           
A falling dollar and growing expectations that the Bank of England will tighten monetary policy faster this year have lifted sterling, and the British currency is up 1.9% since Monday.
           
But concerns about UK economic weakness were underlined by the data showing retail sales volumes rose 0.1% on the month, less than the 0.5% monthly rise that economists had forecast in a Reuters poll, after dropping 1.4% inDecember.
           
"The retail sales are a bit shy of expectations. But there'ssuch a bearish stance on the dollar it would have takensomething much more substantial to have hit sterling," said Craig Erlam, an analyst at Oanda.
           
Traders are looking to earnings data next week, which if better than expected could feed into bets that the Bank of England will tighten monetary policy faster.