Eurozone retail sales increased unexpectedly in January after easing for four consecutive months, data from Eurostat showed Monday.
Retail sales grew 0.3 percent month-on-month in January, following a revised 0.5 percent drop in December. Economists had expected sales to dip 0.1 percent.
Sales figures do not hugely dilute concerns that weak consumer spending remains a serious threat to hopes that Eurozone economic activity can return to growth in the first quarter of 2012, IHS Global Insight's European economist Howard Archer said.
Sales of food product increased 0.6 percent, partially offsetting the 0.8 percent drop in December. Likewise, non-food sales grew 0.5 percent, after easing 0.4 percent a month ago.
On a yearly basis, retail sales remained flat compared to December's 1.3 percent decline. Economists were looking for an annual decrease of 1.5 percent.
In the EU27, retail sales increased by 0.4 percent compared to a monthly fall of 0.2 percent in December.
Total retail trade grew in nine member nations and decreased in another nine. Latvia marked the biggest increase of 6.4 percent, followed by 5.5 percent rise in Slovenia, and 3 percent growth in Romania. The largest decreases were seen in Portugal, Denmark and Germany.
High inflation and tight fiscal conditions are likely to dampen consumer spending going forward. Inflation in the 17-nation bloc rose to 2.7 percent from 2.6 percent in February. The unemployment rate reached a record-high 10.7 percent in January.
The European Commission sees a mild recession in the Eurozone. The economy is expected to contract 0.3 percent this year.
At the February G20 meeting, the International Monetary Fund urged euro area to build on recent measures and act decisively on multiple fronts to achieve a successful resolution to the crisis.
by RTT Staff Writer
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