The latest Bloomberg Euro-Zone Retail Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), based on a mid-month survey of economic conditions in the euro area retail sector, signaled a further sharp drop in sales in the important trading month of December. Margins fell at a record rate. Retailers' expectations of meeting sales targets next month collapsed to a new low. Meanwhile, wholesale price pressures eased to a three-year low.
The Retail PMI, which provides data one month ahead of government-issued figures and is based on a survey of more than 1000 retail executives in Germany, France, and Italy, indicates the second-steepest month-on-month drop in sales in the five-year survey history in December. The PMI registered 41.4, compared to 40.6 in November. Monthly sales have fallen continuously since June.
Retail sales continued to fall on both measures in all three countries covered:
* Italy recorded the steepest rate of decline of retail sales among the three countries by a wide margin, continuing the trend seen throughout much of 2008. The monthly sales index recorded 31.9, up from the survey low of 28.5 seen in November but still signaling a particularly steep rate of decline by the survey's historical standards. Measured against the same period a year ago, Italian retail sales showed by far the steepest drop on record (16.6).
* Sales fell sharply in Germany, registering the third-steepest monthly fall in the series' history. The month-on-month index rose modestly from November's record low of 41.3, to 42.3. In year-on-year terms the rate of decline also eased, but only marginally from November's forty-nine month low.
* Retail sales again showed some resilience in France, registering the slowest monthly rate of decline of the three countries surveyed. Sales still fell at the fastest pace since April as consumers continued to rein in spending in the face of economic uncertainty. The month-on-month index fell from 48.7 in November to 47.3. Sales were well down on a year ago, posting the second-largest annual fall in almost three years.
Compared to a year ago in December, sales fell in all sectors except food and drink, where growth slowed to a modest pace. The largest drop in sales was again reported by autos and fuel retailers. Retailers of household goods, clothing and footwear, and pharmaceuticals all reported similarly marked annual rates of decline.
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