BERLIN, April 30 (Reuters) - German monthly retail sales declined in March at their fastest rate since January 2007 as shops remained closed in a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Europe’s biggest economy, data showed on Thursday.
Data from the Statistics office showed retail sales falling by 5.6 percent on the month in March, which was nevertheless a smaller drop than an analyst forecast for a 7.3% decline. They fell by 2.8% on the year.
There had been a surge in retail sales, a notoriously volatile indicator, the previous month as households stockpiled before the lockdown.
The Statistics Office said higher sales in supermarkets and chemists, which remained open during the shutdown, offset some of the losses elsewhere.
Germany’s economy minister warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic would plunge the economy into its deepest recession since World War Two.
The government also cut its estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020 to -6.3% from +1.1% predicted in January. It expects the recession to bottom out in the second quarter and economic activity to pick up again after that, provided a second wave of infections can be avoided.
Some shops re-opened last week. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers Editing by Michelle Martin)