June 4, 2015 / 10:31 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Western European auto rebound slowed in May - LMC

(Adds details, analyst comment)

By Laurence Frost

PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) - Western European car registrations rose a modest 0.2 percent in May, according to industry data published on Thursday, as the region’s stop-go recovery faltered in some markets.

Sales came in at 1.06 million cars, based on data and estimates compiled by consulting firm LMC Automotive - with the year-on-year gain held back by a reduced number of selling days compared with May 2014.

Adjusted for selling days and seasonal effects, the selling rate in May fell to 12.51 million cars annually from 12.96 million in April, LMC said. But sales for the year so far are nonetheless up 6.6 percent on the first five months of 2014.

“Generally we are seeing an improving picture,” said Emiliano Lewis, a UK-based analyst with the firm. “With economic expansion expected to continue through this year and beyond, the market outlook remains healthy.”

The data, an aggregation of published registrations and projections for some smaller markets, show a contrasted picture.

The UK annual selling rate rose 7.2 percent in May to 2.61 million cars, while Spain’s advanced 1 percent.

But French sales fell 4.7 percent from April to May on the same annualized basis, while Italy dropped 5.5 percent to 1.63 million and Germany tumbled almost 11 percent to 2.92 million.

The numbers mirror a hesitant economic recovery in countries like France, where unemployment has worsened even as other indicators show progress.

They may also add to existing concerns among industry-watchers about the sustainability of Europe’s auto rebound.

“We remain somewhat cautious on the magnitude of the recovery,” Bernstein analyst Max Warburton had warned in a note last month.

“While Spain is enjoying a full-blown recovery, Italy’s gains are partly founded on rental cars and France’s retail demand is still weak.”

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Dominique Vidalon

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