BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone sales increased at a slower rate than expected in February as shoppers cut back on non-food purchases and figures for January were revised down, indicating a slowdown of business in the bloc’s high streets at the start of the year.
The European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday that retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose by just 0.1 percent month-on-month for a 1.8 percent year-on-year increase.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.5 percent monthly rise and a 2.1 percent annual gain.
Eurostat also cut its figures for January to -0.3 percent on the month and to 1.5 percent year-on-year from the previous estimates of -0.1 and 2.3 percent respectively.
Food, drink and tobacco sales grew after a month-on-month contraction and year-on-year stagnation in January.
Sales of pharmaceutical and medical goods and of automotive fuel rose during February after declines in January, but other non-food products either rose by less than in January or fell.
These included clothing, electrical goods and furniture, computer equipment and books as well as mail order and internet sales.
Internet sales, which peaked in November, have now fallen for three straight months.
Eurostat also released data on producer prices, showing a 0.1 percent month-on-month increase, in line with expectations, and a 1.6 percent year-on-year rise, just ahead of the average economist forecast of 1.5 percent.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek