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Global investors may be nervous over the outcome of next week’s EU membership referendum but British shoppers held their nerve in May, continuing to snap up bargains as prices remain low.

Growth in retail sales by volume far surpassed expectations last month, according to official data.

Sales excluding petrol rose 1 per cent month-on-month, which although down on 2 per cent growth the previous month, was much better than the 0.3 per cent rise anticipated by economists.

Year-on-year, sales excluding petrol jumped 5.7 per cent from 4.8 per cent growth in April. this was the biggest jump since September last year.

Economists had forecast a weaker rise of 3.8 per cent year-on-year. Including petrol, sales rose 6 per cent compared to May 2015 and 0.9 per cent month-on-month.

Average prices last month, including petrol, were 2.8 per cent lower than a year ago.

The better-than-expected numbers lifted the pound. It is up 0.09 per cent on the day against a weak dollar at publication time, at $1.4183, having dropped as low as $1.4121 earlier in the morning after the latest Brexit poll showed a six point lead for the Leave camp.

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