S.Korea department store sales end 5-mth losing run

SEOUL Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:00pm EST

SEOUL Dec 27 (Reuters) - Combined sales at South Korea's top department stores rose for the first time in six months in November year-on-year, and at the fastest pace in 11 months, data showed on Thursday, adding to signs the economy is turning around.

Combined sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae rose 9.1 percent in November from a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement.

This was slightly worse than a 10.2 percent rise estimated by the finance ministry earlier this month but still marked the fastest growth since December 2011. It also ended a five-month run of annual declines in their sales.

Meanwhile, sales at the country's top three discount store chains fell by 1.7 percent in November from a year earlier, following a 6.6 percent drop in October and compared with a 2.1 percent drop initially estimated by the finance ministry.

South Korea's tight labour market and low inflation have improved the purchasing power at households but heightened uncertainties surrounding the global as well as local economy have prompted consumers to cut down spending. (Reporting By Se Young Lee; Editing by Choonsik Yoo)

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