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Eurozone Retail Sales Log Unexpected Fall

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Eurozone retail sales declined unexpectedly in May signaling weak consumer spending in the 19- nation currency bloc, official data revealed Thursday.

Retail sales slid 0.3 percent month-on-month in May, following a revised 0.1 percent fall in April, Eurostat reported. This was the second consecutive fall. Sales were forecast to grow 0.3 percent after April's initially estimated decrease of 0.4 percent.

Food, drinks and tobacco sales decreased 0.5 percent and non-food product sales dropped 0.1 percent. Sales of automotive fuels were down markedly by 1.3 percent.

On a yearly basis, retail sales growth eased to 1.3 percent from revised 1.8 percent a month ago. This was the slowest growth seen so far this year. Growth in sales was forecast to moderate to 1.6 percent.

Data cast doubt on the strength of the service sector, Bert Colijn, an ING economist, said. That is not enough for the European Central Bank to go on, but it may push the bank closer to quick action, the economist added.

Christina Iacovides, an economist at Capital Economics, said retail sales data supports the assessment that GDP growth in the bloc slowed to 0.2 percent in the second quarter.

Looking ahead, lower inflation is likely to raise households' spending power, but any increase in spending growth will be small, the economist added.

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