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Economy in Brief

European Economic Data Hits Blow Hot and Cold: This Time Cold: German Retail Sales
by Robert Brusca April 1, 2008

While German unemployment fell more than expected in March there has been no relief to German retailers or by association consumers. The growth rate series in the chart is remarkable for its tranquility. German real retail sales are simply flat after some turbulence early in 2007 stemming from the VAT tax that shifted sales into 2007 then sucked them out of 2008. Sales are settling down into a very narrow growth band in late 2007 and 2008. Even though Germany continues to post acceptable rates of growth, the consumer has long been forecast as a force to join in to extend the expansion but he simply has not. Indeed, real retail sales ex-auto sales (see table, at the bottom) fell sharply in February. Sales by this measure at the two-month mark in the new quarter are declining at a 1.3% annual rate. Real ex auto sales would have to rise by 1.6% in March to ‘elevate’ the quarter’s sales pace to zero.

German Real and Nominal Retail Sales
Nominal Feb-08 Jan-08 Dec-07 3-MO 6-MO 12-MO YrAGo QTR, SAAR
Retaill Ex auto -0.7% 1.6% -0.6% 1.2% -0.6% -0.5% -0.4% 3.4%
Motor Vehicle and Parts #N/A -3.8% 2.9% #N/A #N/A #N/A -4.7% #N/A
Food, Beverages & Tobacco -2.2% 2.1% -2.3% -9.1% -4.5% -3.9% -0.3% -5.1%
Clothing footwear 2.5% 1.6% 0.8% 21.6% 4.4% 4.0% 3.6% 16.0%
Retail Ex auto -1.6% 0.9% -0.1% -3.2% -5.0% -3.2% -0.9% -1.3%
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