Leading central bankers yesterday signalled that the downturn in the world economy had bottomed out with some large economies already able to look forward to renewed growth.

Speaking after a regular meeting of central bankers in Basel, Switzerland, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, reflected their cautious optimism that many countries had now seen the worst of the recession. 'In all cases we see a slowing down of the decrease in GDP. In certain cases you see already a picking up,' Trichet said.

Trichet’s remarks came as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development highlighted signs of a pause in the economic slowdown in the UK, France, Italy, and China. Retail sales figures, published today, also point to some cheer on Britain’s high streets. The value of retail sales rose sharply in April, in the latest sign that UK consumers have been more willing to spend during the recession than many had expected.

Financial Times