Italy's retail sales rise, but economic performance still mixed

11:32, June 25, 2011      

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The Italian statistics agency reported Friday that retail sales rose strongly in April, mirroring a similar rise in prices over the same period and showing that sagging consumer confidence is having only a limited impact on spending.

ISTAT, the Italian national statistics agency, said that retail sales in Europe's fourth largest economy inched up 0.4 percent in April compared to March. Levels were also 2.5 percent higher than the same period in 2010. Before the April rise, retail sales dipped in two of the previous three months this year.

Much of the growth was attributed to rises in food purchases and in sales of shoes and leather goods, which rose 0.8 percent and 5.7 percent respectively compared to March. April and May, the first warm months of the year in most of Italy, generally see strong shoe sales as residents prepare for the summer. But that was not the case in the 2008-2010 period, ISTAT said.

While the slight improvement in retail sales did not alone indicate a turnaround for the slow-moving Italian economy, it was a positive note in an otherwise difficult period, which saw prices rise 2.5 percent in April and May compared to the same period in 2010, and mostly flat economic growth.

0n Thursday, ISTAT reported that consumer confidence was edited downward, with the official index slipping to 105.8 points in May compared to 106.5 in the previous month. Economists said that a rise in retail sales, together with a slipping consumer confidence, was likely a sign that the country's economic recovery was so far uneven.

"When you have mixed signals like this it indicates a lack of cohesiveness in the country's economic performance," Angelo Perin, an analyst with ABS Securities, told Xinhua. "Any recovery will fail to get traction until most of the indicators are pointed in the same direction."

Source: Xinhua
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