March 3, 2017 / 10:06 AM / 5 months ago

Euro zone January retail sales unexpectedly drop for third straight month

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Shoppers walk with shopping bags as they take care of their last-minute Christmas holiday gift purchases outside department stores in Paris, France, December 23, 2016.Charles Platiau

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone monthly retail sales fell in January for the third consecutive month, against market expectations of a rise, estimates released by Eurostat on Friday showed, in a sign of lower consumer appetite for spending as prices go up.

Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell by 0.1 percent in January from December, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said. The figure compared with market expectations of a 0.4 percent increase on the month.

Year-on-year, the volume of retail sales grew 1.2 percent in January, lower than the 1.6 percent rise forecast by economists polled by Reuters.

The monthly drop is the third in a row and is compounded by a downwardly revised 0.5 percent fall recorded in December, despite Christmas shopping. In its previous estimate, Eurostat had recorded a 0.3 percent fall in December.

The figures, which are subject to revision, may indicate a reduced appetite for shopping in the euro zone, possibly caused by higher consumer prices, which could dent the bloc's economic recovery.

Eurostat flash estimates released on Thursday said annual consumer inflation reached a four-year high in February, accelerating to 2.0 percent after a 1.8 percent rise the previous month, mostly driven by higher energy prices

The fall in the retail sales monthly reading was mostly due to a 0.2 percent drop in purchases of non-food products, a wide category that includes clothing, electrical goods, pharmaceutical products and e-commerce.

Sales of food, drinks and tobacco were also down 0.1 percent.

Car fuel sales went up by 0.8 percent in the month, the only component of the reading that recorded a rise.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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