UPDATE 1-H&M comparable sales shrink for fourth straight month

Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:23am EST

* Comparable sales -4 pct vs consensus -5 pct

* Total sales +5 pct, matching preliminary figure

* H&M has most business in recession-hit Europe (Adds detail, background)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Swedish budget fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz, which has been hit by weak European consumer spending, posted on Friday its fourth straight monthly drop in comparable sales.

Like-for-like sales were down by 4 percent in local currencies from a year earlier, which was slightly less than expected and less than a 6 percent drop in overall apparel sales in its single biggest market, Germany.

The mean forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts had been for a 5 percent drop.

H&M did not comment om the figure.

H&M, the world's second-biggest clothing retailer after Zara owner Inditex, has the bulk of its business in Europe, where the debt crisis and rising unemployment have dampened the mood of shoppers.

Data showed on Thursday that the euro zone slipped deeper than expected into recession in the last three months of 2012, with the German economy shrinking in the quarter.

H&M's total sales in January, which also includes sales in stores open less than a year, were up 5 percent, matching a preliminary figure given previously by the company.

Fast-expanding H&M said it at the end of January had 2,808 stores, up from 2,488 a year earlier. (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; editing by Niklas Pollard)