The latest Bloomberg Eurozone Retail Purchasing Managers' Index, based on a mid-month survey of economic conditions in the euro area retail sector, rose from 44.0 in June to 46.0 in July. By remaining below the 50.0 level, the index pointed to a further fall in sales during the month despite an easing in the rate of decline from the steep pace seen in June.
In contrast to Italy and Germany (where sales contracted) sales rose modestly in France, offsetting the fall seen in June. However, the rate of increase remained well down on the buoyant pace seen earlier in the year. The month-on-month sales index recovered from 48.7 to 51.3.
Of the five product categories covered by the survey, food & drink retailers reported a year-on-year increase in sales revenues in July. However, gains in annual sales in part reflected higher prices rather than improvements in volumes. For the third successive month, the steepest decline was reported for autos & fuel, as deteriorating consumer confidence hit car sales. Annual sales of pharmaceuticals were marginally lower following two months of growth. The rate of increase in prices paid for goods by retailers remained elevated in July, picking up on June to register the fourth-highest pace yet recorded by the survey. The prices index edged up to 67.3, from 67.1. Purchase price inflation hit record highs in both Germany and Italy, but eased to a ten-month low in France.
Retail sector employment fell for the fourth month running in July, with the rate of job losses unchanged on June's twenty-eight month record. The employment index held steady at 48.6. All three countries registered shrinking retail workforces, with French retailers reporting the steepest rate of decline (and posting the largest monthly fall since January 2006). In Italy, headcounts at retailers fell for the seventh consecutive month. Retail staffing levels were also trimmed in Germany, but very slightly.
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