Surprise dip in German sales but figures may be revised
GERMAN retail sales fell unexpectedly in December, suggesting Europe's debt crisis unsettled consumers during key Christmas trade, although economists said they expected the preliminary data to be revised upwards.
The notoriously volatile indicator fell 1.4pc in real terms on the month, and 0.9pc on an annual basis, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed. The indicator missed forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists for gains of 0.9 and 1.4pc respectively.
"These numbers suggest Christmas business was disappointing for retailers," said Commerzbank's Ulrike Rondorf. "But the statistics office data are often revised.
"Retailers themselves were relatively optimistic, and private consumption remains, in our view, a supporting pillar of the economy."
Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the December figures were "almost too bad to believe".
"Anecdotal reports and consumer confidence simply do not confirm the news from these data," he said. "Typically, at year end, retail sales get underreported a lot and usually revised up significantly," he said.
Germany's export-driven economy recovered quickly from the 2008/09 financial crisis, but the outlook has darkened as eurozone worries begin to affect the real economy. Consumer surveys, however, show German consumers remain upbeat, suggesting private spending will weather bad news from the eurozone thanks to the solid domestic job market.