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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The volume of euro zone retail sales increased for the third consecutive month in March and by more than market expectations, showing shoppers have so far not been deterred by rising prices, estimates released on Thursday show.
Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro increased by 0.3 percent in March from February, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said, more than the average market expectation of a 0.1 percent rise.
Year-on-year, the volume of retail sales grew 2.3 percent in March, higher than the 2.1 percent rise forecast by economists polled by Reuters.
But the higher-than-expected rise in March was offset by a downward revision of February data. The month-on-month figure for February was revised by Eurostat to 0.5 percent from the previously estimated 0.7 percent, while the year-on-year growth of sales was 1.7 percent instead of 1.8 percent.
Month-on-month retail sales rose for the third straight month, a sign that shoppers seem so far to have been unaffected by growing inflation in the bloc.
Inflation in the 19-country currency bloc is estimated at 1.9 percent year-on-year in April, up from 1.5 percent in March and just short of the four-year high of 2.0 percent recorded in February.
Retail sales increased in the month mostly for electrical goods and furniture which posted a 0.7 percent rise. Consumers also bought more food, drinks and tobacco which grew by 0.2 percent on the month.
Shoppers reduced their purchases of car fuel, whose sale volumes went down in March by 0.3 percent on the month. Sales of clothes and footwear also dropped in March by 1.7 percent month-on-month after a 4.2 percent surge in February.
Among the largest economies of the euro zone, sales went up by 0.6 percent in the month in both France and Spain. Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, posted a 0.1 percent rise. March data were not available for Italy.
Outside the euro zone, Britain recorded in March a 2.2 percent drop in monthly retail sales, the largest fall in all the 28 countries of the European Union, after Portugal where sales fell by 2.3 percent.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop