The pound strengthened against the dollar on Thursday on news U.K. retail sales came in far stronger in November than investors were expecting. In U.S. trading on Thursday, GBP/USD was up 0.50% at 1.5656, up from a session low of 1.5549 and off a high of 1.5678. Cable was likely to find support at 1.5543, Wednesday’s low, and resistance at 1.5787, Tuesday’s high. The pound saw support after the Office for National Statistics reported earlier that U.K. retail sales rose 1.6% last month, well above forecasts for a 0.3% gain. October’s figure was revised up to an increase of 1.0% from a previously estimated 0.8% gain. On a year-on-year basis, retail sales jumped 6.4% beating expectations for a 4.2% gain, after rising at an upwardly revised annual rate of 4.6% in October. Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, were up 1.7% and rose 6.9% from a year earlier. Economists had forecast a monthly increase of 0.4% and an annual gain of 4.5%. Meanwhile in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending Dec. 12 fell by 6,000 to 289,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 295,000. Economist had forecast an increase of 1,000, and the better-than-expected result gave the dollar support, though the U.K. retail sales figures held sway. At the conclusion of its monthly policy meeting on Wednesday, the Fed said it would be “patient” before raising rates, guidance which it said is consistent with earlier assurances that rates would stay low “for a considerable time.” The U.S. central bank noted improvements taking place in the U.S. labor market and pointed out that the economy is making progress in terms of price and employment stability. At the bank’s post-meeting press conference Fed Chair Janet Yellen said monetary authorities were unlikely to raise rates for the “next couple of meetings,” leaving investors to conclude that a move in April at the earliest could be possible. Elsewhere, manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia-region slowed in December after expanding at the fastest rate since December 1993 last month, according to data released on Thursday. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its manufacturing index came in 24.5 at this month, down from 40.8 in November. Economists had forecast a decline to 26.6. On the index, a reading above 0.0 indicates improving conditions, below indicates worsening conditions. The current new orders index, which reflects the demand for manufactured goods, fell to 15.7 from 35.7, while the employment index dropped to 7.2 from a three-and-a-half year high of 22.4 last month. Elsewhere, sterling was up against the euro, with EUR/GBP down 1.01% at 0.7843, and up against the yen, with GBP/JPY up 0.77% at 186.26.