South Korea Oct retail sales slump, show weak growth momentum

SEOUL Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:00pm EST

SEOUL Nov 21 (Reuters) - Sales at South Korea's top department and discount stores contracted simultaneously for the fourth time in five months in October, revised government data showed on Wednesday, underscoring weak consumer sentiment as Asia's fourth-largest economy continues to sputter.

Sales at department stores run by the country's top three chain operators in October fell by 0.4 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement. That compared with a 1.3 percent drop initially estimated by the finance ministry and a 0.8 percent drop in September.

The top three operators are Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae .

Sales at the top three discount stores also declined by 6.6 percent year-on-year, compared with a 7.4 percent fall initially estimated. Discount store sales had risen by 0.2 percent in September.

The data indicates that heavily leveraged Korean households continue to cut their spending to guard against risks posed by the housing market slump and weak economic growth.

South Korean households' real consumption spending fell by 0.7 percent during the third quarter from the same period a year ago, even as their real disposable income grew by a record 4.6 percent year-on-year.

The country's quarterly economic growth slowed to a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent during the July-September period, the weakest in nearly three years, and local policymakers do not expect a sharp economic recovery.

Many analysts believe the central bank will ease policy at least one more time during the first half of 2013 to support the economy. The central bank cut interest rates in July and October this year in response to slowing growth. (Reporting By Se Young Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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