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UK card spending shows pre-Christmas pick-up: ONS

FILE PHOTO: People carry shopping bags as they walk past Christmas themed shop displays on Regent Street in London

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) -British consumer spending picked up in early December, in line with usual seasonal trends as people spent more in the run-up to Christmas, despite a surging cost of living, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Credit and debit card spending in the week to Dec. 1 - which included 'Black Friday' sales promotions - was 13 percentage points higher than a week earlier, according to interbank payments data, which the Bank of England provides to the ONS.

However, spending was flat compared with a year earlier - reflecting a sharp real-terms decline given the high rate of inflation, which hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October.

Compared with a year ago, spending on commuting and other work-related expenses was up by 16 percentage points and spending on socialising was 5 percentage points higher, but spending on discretionary items such as clothing and furniture was down by 10 percentage points.

The BoE data contrasts with debit card transaction data from card provider Revolut, also published by the ONS on Thursday, which showed a 17 percentage point year-on-year rise in spending and a 4 percentage point increase in the week to Dec. 4.

The weekly increase in the Revolut data was driven by a 13-point rise in entertainment spending.

"Consumer behaviour indicators mostly showed increased activity in the latest week, in line with expected pre-Christmas trends," the ONS said.

Britain's most recent official retail sales data - which unlike the weekly numbers are adjusted for inflation and the time of year - showed that sales volumes in October were 6.1% lower than a year earlier.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William James)