S.Korea department, discount store sales fall simultaneously in July
SEOUL Aug 6 (Reuters) - Sales at South Korea's top department and discount store chains fell simultaneously in annual terms over July, preliminary data showed on Tuesday - the first such drop in three months and dimming the outlook for third-quarter growth.
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae last month fell by 2.1 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry estimated, the sharpest drop since January. Sales at the chains had risen 4.1 percent year-on-year in June.
Sales at the country's top discount stores also fell by 5.2 percent in July from a year earlier, the biggest drop since April and following a 4.2 percent rise in June.
The decline underscores sluggish momentum for Asia's fourth-largest economy, which has yet to see demand for its exports recover firmly. The ministry said the unusually long monsoon season depressed demand for clothing and home appliance products.
Though the Bank of Korea's composite consumer sentiment index for July held steady at a more than one-year high, consumers' spending power remains constrained by their highly-leveraged balance sheets and the slumping property market.
South Korea's economy grew at its quickest pace in more than two years during the second quarter, according estimates released by the Bank of Korea last month, but the rate of growth in private consumption lagged that of the country's overall gross domestic product during the three-month period.
The central bank forecasts that the strongest rate of sequential growth this year will be over the third quarter, when the bulk of the government's fiscal stimulus will be spent. But analysts say that soft July exports and signs of an emerging slowdown in China pose significant downside risks for the July-September period.
The finance ministry also said on Tuesday that sales of locally-produced automobiles rose by 4.9 percent in annual terms during July, the first growth since April, due to demand for sport utility vehicles.
Gasoline sales by volume fell by 2.8 percent in annual terms last month following a 2.9 percent rise in June, which the ministry attributed to the monsoon season as well as higher prices.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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