By Daniel Hunter

Visa Europe's latest expenditure index has shown that UK consumer spending fell in December despite a late Christmas rush.

The survey revealed that spending was down by 1.7% on a year earlier, and by 0.9% on the previous month, with the high street sales particularly weak.

Food and drink spending was down 2.2%, whilst household goods spending slumped by 9.2% year-on-year.

However, a separate survey, from MasterCard, found retail sales rose in December.

It found that sales excluding petrol rose by 3.9% against a year earlier.

"Retail sales had a slow start in December... [but] households left their Christmas shopping until the last minute and gave a late boost to retail sales on the High Street and online," said Shweta Chaudhury at MasterCard Spending Plus.

In contrast the Visa survey painted an altogether different picture.

Their survey suggested that high street spending was down 2% from a year earlier, with online spend 0.4% lower. Over the final three months of the year, total spending fell by 0.9%, the index suggested.

"Consumer spending remained disappointingly weak in December," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which compiled the index.

"With consumers playing an important role in fuelling the 0.9% GDP increase in the third quarter, the drop in fourth quarter spending raises the likelihood that the economy may have contracted again."

A more accurate picture for the UK is expected when the British Retail Consortium reports its retail sales figures tomorrow (Tuesday).

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