The seasonally adjusted Bloomberg Eurozone Retail Purchasing Managers' Index - or PMI(R) - rose sharply to a 4-month high in March. The PMI is an indicator based on a mid-month survey of economic conditions in the euro area retail sector to provide data a month ahead of government issued figures.
March's PMI was 53.4, up from 49.8 in February, and signaled the first increase in retail sales for 3 months and a recovery in the rate of growth to the strongest pace seen late last year. The return to growth of month-on-month sales again hid large variations in national performance.
Sales were also markedly higher than a year ago in March. The year-on-year index rose to 56.3 from 53.2 in February, indicating a rate of growth exceeded during the 3-year survey history only by last November's peak. The acceleration in growth primarily reflected a steep upturn in Germany as sales bounced back from the lull seen in the first 2 months of the year. Growth slowed very slightly in France, but fell only just below the strong pace seen in Germany. More modest annual sales growth was seen in Italy, though even here the rate of increase picked up to a 7-month high.
- France saw the strongest increase in sales (among the euro area's three largest countries) for the second month running, registering acceleration in sales growth to the fastest since last July (the index rose from 54.7 to 56.8) and a rate well above the average seen over the survey's history.
- Germany's sales recovered strongly, suggesting a waning of the impact of the VAT following steep falls in sales in January and February. The index rose sharply from 45.0 to a 3-month high of 52.8.
- Italy's sales fell slightly, with the index dipping from 50.4 to 49.6), continuing the trend of near-stagnation seen since the start of the year. Retailers reported an ongoing lack of consumer confidence. However, the near-stagnation in Q1 represents the best performance since Q4 2005.
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