In January, euro zone retail sales rose for the first time in seven months. Retail sales jumped by 1.2% M/M, significantly more than the expected 0.3% M/M increase. Only limited details are available, suggesting that strength was broad-based. Sales of food, drinks & tobacco (0.8% M/M) and non-food products (2.0% M/M) increased in January, while sales of automotive fuel & special stores dropped by 0.1% M/M. Looking at the national data, the rebound was led by Germany (3.1% M/M), Belgium (3.1% M/M) and Portugal (4.2% M/M), but also in France (0.9% M/M), Austria (0.7% M/M) and Luxembourg (1.3% M/M) retail sales picked up at the start of the new year. Only in Ireland, retail sales dropped in January (by 1.0% M/M). Data from Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and the Netherlands were not available. After a very poor second half of 2012, the rebound in retail sales is no surprise and might be supported by strong discounting during the winter sales period and a rebound in consumer sentiment in January. The remarkable strength is however unlikely to sustain as the unemployment rate is still at record high levels, while the improvement in consumer confidence in January was not extended in February.
The final reading of the euro zone services PMI for February showed a significant upward revision from the first estimate, while no change was forecast. Euro zone services PMI was revised from 47.3 to 47.9, still down from 48.6 in January. National data show a significant upward adjustment in the French reading (43.7 from 42.7) and also the German services PMI was revised up from 54.1 to 54.7. In Spain (44.7 from 45.8) and Ireland (53.6 from 56.8) the services PMI weakened significantly, while a more limited payback was seen in Italy (43.6 from 43.9). While the manufacturing PMI extended its very gradual uptrend, the rebound in the services sector apparently ran into resistance as domestic demand remains depressed in most areas, with the exception of Germany. While the outlook for the services sector is bleak, the manufacturing sector is forecast to extend its rebound helped by accelerating orders from abroad.