CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Mexico Dec retail sales dip more than forecast

Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:26am EST

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(Corrects December sales decline to 3.6 percent from 1.8 percent, and corrects revision for previous month, both in 2nd paragraph)

* Retail sales fall 1.8 pct in Dec

* Miss Reuters poll expectations for 1.1 pct fall

MEXICO CITY, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Mexican retail sales eased more than expected in December, the national statistics office said on Thursday, raising concerns about whether internal demand can buoy growth in 2013.

Retail sales fell 3.6 percent from the prior month, missing expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.1 percent contraction, compared with a downwardly revised 0.73 percent expansion notched the previous month.

Healthy consumer spending helped Mexican output heat up in the fourth quarter last year, picking up the slack from a manufacturing cooling that had previously sheltered the country from the worst of the global slowdown.

But the dip in retail sales sparks fresh worries about growth this year.

Mexican consumer confidence slipped off of a nearly five-year high in January as shoppers in Latin America's second biggest economy showed less willingness to make big purchases.

Mexico's central bank said it could cut interest rates if inflation continues to cool and economic growth flags, but has held rates steady at 4.5 percent since 2009.

The bank expects growth this year to come in a range of 3 percent to 4 percent, on par with its last quarterly review.

Retail sales in December dropped 1.8 percent from a year earlier, compared to expectations for a 2.1 percent rise and a 3.5 percent annual rate in November. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper)

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