Thursday, July 19, 2007

Retail Sales June

From the Korean Herald:

Department store sales up 4.4% in June

Korea's department store sales increased at the fastest pace in four months in June, adding to signs growth in Asia's third-largest economy may accelerate.

Sales at the nation's three biggest department store chains, including Lotte Shopping Co., climbed 4.4 percent from a year earlier, after falling 0.1 percent in May, the Commerce Ministry said yesterday. Sales at discount stores rose 1.9 percent in June, compared with a 3.1 percent decline in May.

Korea's central bank last week raised its forecast for the economy's expansion, citing sustained export demand and a revival in household spending. Consumers become the most confident in 15 months, exports soared to a record and the jobless rate dropped in June, according to recent reports.

"Consumer spending is likely to rise steadily," said Go You-sun, an economist at Daewoo Securities Co. in Seoul. "The increase in the stock market is a positive factor to boost spending and I expect consumption to rise further as we go into the second half of this year."

Korea's won climbed 0.02 percent to 918 against the U.S. dollar, close to a seven-month high. The KOSPI stock index fell 0.4 percent to 1942.33 at 9:17 a.m. in Seoul, after reaching a record high on July 16. The index is the world's best performer this month.

Sales at Seoul-based retailer Shinsegae Co. climbed 2.6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier.

"Department stores saw a rise in sales of clothes and sports merchandise as people bought more goods needed for their summer vacation," the Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

The Bank of Korea boosted its forecast for economic growth in 2007 to 4.5 percent from 4.4 percent. Bank Governor Lee Seong-tae raised the benchmark interest rate to a six-year high on 4.75 percent, the first increase in a year.

Consumer demand "is continuing to improve," Lee told reporters last week in Seoul. Higher interest rates "won't be a hurdle to the economic recovery."

Helping bolster consumer spending, the jobless rate fell to 3.3 percent in June as finance and transport companies hired workers amid rising demand.

Korea's economy has expanded for 16 straight quarters, the longest stretch of growth in more than a decade, largely fueled by increased exports. Job gains and improving confidence will help stoke consumer spending.

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