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Economy in Brief

EMU Retail Sales Move Higher
by Robert Brusca  May 4, 2012

Euro-Area Retail sales are up by 0.3% in March and are accelerating over three months compared to six months. Motor vehicle registrations rebounded in March after a plunge February that followed a disaster in January. Their growth rates are still seriously impacted.

Still it's only month and it may or may not be meaningful. Germany is not leading the way, based on monthly trends and Yr/Yr it is still weak.

EMU sales Yr/Yr calculations benefit from a favorable year-ago comparisons since sales fell by 1.1% in March one year ago. The trends for retailing are not very compelling. And the background economics and politics do not do anything to give the numbers any greater authenticity. Since Germany is not leading the way up I am suspicious.

The UK alone is showing some continuing strength in real retail sales. But given the role of the 'gas shortage scare' in driving extra quarter-end purchases I'd be somewhat guarded in taking that trend as real.

On balance the Euro-Area shows very weak car registrations which get to the nub of how the consumer feels where the rubber meets the road. That big ticket series did rebound in March, but from a very deep pit, one in which it is still mired.

We may know a bit better what to say about Europe after the French elections are out of the way. But then again maybe we will not. Watershed events that we expect to clarify things often do not sweep away uncertainty as much we hope they will.

Euro-Area Retail Sales
  Mar-12 Feb-12 Jan-12 3-Mo 6-Mo 12-Mo
Zone Total Volume 0.3% -0.2% 1.0% 4.5% -2.6% -1.9%
Motor Vehicle Reg 6.7% -4.9% -7.3% -21.6% -12.4% -3.9%
NonFood Country detail: Volume
Germany Value 0.8% -0.9% -1.0% -4.4% -2.0% 0.3%
UK(EU) Volume 1.8% -0.8% 0.4% 5.6% 5.0% 3.3%
Data in Shaded region are lagged by one month
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