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Retail

German retail sales dip in 2012 after December slump

German retailers have posted a steep decline in revenues over the past 12 months. Surprisingly, seasonally and price-adjusted sales have not reflected a general uptick in consumer confidence.

Taking 2012 as a whole, retail sales in Germany slipped by 0.3 percent in seasonally and price-adjusted terms, the National Statistics Office (Destatis) reported on Thursday.

The final month of last year proved to be particularly painful, with sales declining by 1.7 percent month-on-month despite usually lucrative pre-Christmas trading. On a 12-month basis, figures were even more alarming, with retail sales dropping by 4.7 percent in December, compared with levels achieved in the same month in 2011.

Statisticians remarked, though, that there were two fewer shopping days in December 2012 than in the previous year.

Better outlook

"Recent surveys among consumers and business leaders have all shown that confidence in Germany's economic development is growing," Berenberg Bank Chief Economist Christian Schulz said in a statement. "But somehow this boosted confidence hasn't reached the real economy yet."

The decline in 2012 retail sales was all the more surprising since the country saw an extremely stable labor market despite the euro crisis and wage hikes in many industries, leaving consumers with more to spend.

Private domestic consumption had been a pillar of German growth for years. Analysts expect retail sales to recover in real terms in the course of this year.

hg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)