S.Korea May department store sales rise 1.7 pct y/y

SEOUL, June 11 Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:59pm EDT

SEOUL, June 11 (Reuters) - Sales at South Korea's top department store chains edged up in May in annual terms, preliminary data showed on Tuesday, underscoring still-shaky consumer sentiment that has remained sluggish since last year.

Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae last month rose by 1.7 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry estimated, following a 1.9 percent fall in April.

Meanwhile, sales at the country's top discount store chains fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier during May, following a 9.8 percent fall in April.

Discount store sales have lagged this year due to government regulations, such as restricting operation hours, aimed at boosting the earnings of smaller supermarkets.

South Korean households have grown more thrifty in response to uncertain economic conditions and growing debt. Data released by the Bank of Korea earlier this month showed that private consumption shrank by a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent on-quarter during the first quarter, contrasting with 0.8 percent overall gross domestic product growth.

The central bank's composite consumer sentiment index rose to 104 in May from 102 in April, however, adding to hopes of a sustained recovery for Asia's fourth-largest economy.{ID:nS6N0B101W]

The finance ministry also said on Tuesday that sales of locally-produced automobiles fell 1.9 percent from a year earlier in May, a sharp slowing from a 0.8 percent rise in April.

Gasoline sales by volume fell by 1.2 percent in annual terms last month following a 6.5 percent rise in April. (Reporting by Se Young Lee and Christine Kim; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)