Retail sales contracted 2.3% in January, suggesting the sector might struggle to pull itself out of its depressed state. It was the biggest monthly contraction since the 2009 recession. According to analysts, the immediate future does not look good either. Consumers are choking on debt and the budget’s constraining effects on income will start to kick in. “This is not a good start at all. We’re seeing such mild economic growth. We’re at a trough,” Meganomics economist Colen Garrow said. “Low confidence on the business and consumer side, high inflation and tough economic and financial conditions drove retail sales down, coupled with January seasonally being a difficult month. “People don’t feel confident spending their money. This is the biggest sector for GDP so it’s going to be subtracted,” he said. Retail sales rose 1% in December 2017. “While the contraction is partly due to base effects, high inflation, weak household credit extension and the lag effect from the interest rate hi...

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