BRUSSELS Euro zone retail sales rose more than expected in July, posting the largest monthly increase of the year in the aftermath of the June British vote to leave the European Union.
EU statistics office Eurostat said on Monday retail sales, a proxy for household spending, rose 1.1 percent month-on-month and 2.9 percent on a yearly basis in July, in both cases much more than market expectations.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a milder 0.6 percent increase of sales on the month and a 1.9 percent rise from the previous year.
The monthly figures follow a revised 0.1 percent drop of sales in June, initially estimated by Eurostat to be flat. The EU statistics office also revised the yearly figure for June, in this case upwards, to 1.7 percent from the previously estimated 1.6 percent.
The 1.1 percent point rise in July is by far the highest monthly increase this year, more than double the 0.4 percent increase recorded in May, until now the strongest performance of 2016.
The boost in retail sales came in the month following the June 23 Brexit referendum, in a sign that consumers' morale was not immediately hit by the British vote to leave the EU.
Monthly retail sales in the European Union as a whole were also the strongest of the year in July, growing 1.0 percent during the month, after a 0.2 percent fall in June. In Britain sales increased 1.3 percent in July after a 0.8 percent drop in June.
In the euro zone, monthly sales were boosted mostly by a 1.8 percent spike in consumer purchases of car fuel. Retail sales of food, drinks and tobacco products went up 1.1 percent.
Purchases of non-food items, such as textiles or computer equipment, rose 0.4 percent on the month, in a sign that consumers were less keen on discretionary spending, after a 0.7 percent increase in June.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)