After a significant drop in September, euro zone retail sales surprised on the upside of expectations in October. On a monthly basis, euro zone retail sales rose by 0.4% M/M, while the consensus was looking for only a marginal increase (by 0.1% M/M). Also the previous figure was upwardly revised from -0.7% M/M to -0.6% M/M. The details show that sales of both non-food products (0.5% M/M) and food, drinks and tobacco (0.2% M/M) rose in October. The available national data show that strength was based in Germany (0.7% M/M), Belgium (0.4% M/M), France (0.8% M/M), while Spanish retail sales fell by 0.8% M/M. While not all national data were yet available, they suggest that especially in non-core EMU countries, consumers are feeling the pain of the debt crisis with severe austerity measures weighing in consumers’ budgets. In the core countries, consumer spending is holding up reasonably well.
The final figure of November euro zone services PMI showed a downward revision compared to the first estimate. Services PMI was revised from 47.8 to 47.5, up from 46.4 in October. The consensus was looking for an unchanged figure. National details show a mixed picture. German services PMI was downwardly revised from 51.4 to 50.3, while the Spanish one plunged from 41.8 to 36.8! Irish (52.7 from 51.5), Italian (45.8 from 43.9) and French (49.6 from 44.6) services PMI rebounded significantly in November. Compared to the previous month, the pace of contraction in the euro zone services sector slowed, but less than initially estimated. All big-four nations reported reduced volumes of new business, although the rates of decline slowed across the board. Employment rose only marginally in November, as job losses were reported in Spain, Italy and Ireland. In November, euro zone countries saw a slight improvement in activity in the services sector, which is encouraging, but confidence remained very weak due to the debt crisis that undermined sentiment.