Euro zone retail sales sharply down at Christmas

BRUSSELS Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:03am GMT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Trade in euro zone shops fell by the largest margin in eight months in December, as falling sales of drinks and Christmas dinners reflected the recession in the currency bloc.

The retail trade volume for the 17 countries using the euro was down by 0.8 percent in December from November, the biggest drop since April, EU statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a fall of only 0.5 percent.

Compared to the same month a year ago, sales were down 3.4 percent in December as Christmas gift-buying failed to boost total trade.

Eurostat also revised down November's month-on-month retail sales figure to a fall of 0.1 percent from a previously reported rise of 0.1 percent, meaning sales have now fallen for the last five reported months.

Shoppers were also decidedly less jolly about buying food, drink, and tobacco in December on both a monthly and an annual basis, and spending on clothes, electronics, and computers also fell.

The poor sales figures highlight European households' reluctance to spend and help a euro zone recovery.

The euro zone slipped into its second recession since 2009 last year and economists see the slump continuing during 2013, with a recovery only coming towards the end of this year.

(Reporting By Ethan Bilby; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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