HIGH street sales last month were "considerably stronger" than expected, dampening hopes of an April interest rate cut.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed sales volumes in February jumped 0.6 per cent month-on-month, way ahead of economists' predictions of around the 0.2 per cent mark.

Year-on-year figures, at 5.8 per cent, also came in above expectations of about 4.9 per cent.

Analysts had expected the month-on-month sales figures to have slowed in February, following a strong burst of spending over Christmas.

ONS said the sales were boosted by stronger growth from larger stores, including supermarkets.

It said the timing of foot-and-mouth outbreak meant there had been no noticeable effect on the February figures.

Philip Shaw, economist at Investec, said: "Quite clearly, while the US economy is slowing, it is not yet having an impact on the UK consumer."

He said the figures were "considerably stronger than our expectations" and that they may throw a possible rate cut for April into doubt.

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is due to announce its decision on rates on April 5.

The MPC left the cost of borrowing on hold in March, following its quarter point cut in February, which brought rates down to 5.75 per cent. Economists have been pencilling in a quarter-point cut in April.