German shoppers dig out wallets in April: retail data

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Germans headed back to the high street in April, pushing up retail sales for the first time this year, official data released on Tuesday by the national statistics office showed.

Retail sales in the biggest European economy gained a seasonally-adjusted 1.0 percent from March, in line with analysts' forecasts, the Destatis office said.

"Finally some spending," ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski commented.

"April retail sales in Germany brought some evidence that German consumers can still spend it."

Export-oriented Germany has been pressured by European Union neighbours to boost domestic consumption and help those who do not manage to achieve Berlin's constant trade surpluses.

On an annual basis, retail sales nonetheless plunged by 3.1 percent, the data showed.

Shoppers pulled back following the expiration of a German car scrapping scheme in September, but Brzeski also noted that the retail data is highly volatile, often revised and has "to be taken with a pinch of salt."

While factors remain in place to encourage further consumption, such as low inflation, wage increases and solid corporate order books, headwinds might kick up later this year as officials seek to rein in an excessive public deficit.

"Increased uncertainty stemming from the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis should not really stimulate German consumers to open their wallets," the ING economist added.

© 2010 AFP

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