South Korea March department store sales gain on February, suggest recovery on track

SEOUL Mon Apr 7, 2014 9:02pm EDT

Customers choose cosmetics at a cosmetics counter at the Shinsegae department store in Seoul October 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Customers choose cosmetics at a cosmetics counter at the Shinsegae department store in Seoul October 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

SEOUL (Reuters) - Sales at South Korea's top department and discount stores improved in March over February, preliminary data showed on Tuesday, indicating economic recovery, although a bit shaky, appears to be on track.

Combined sales at department store chains run by Hyundai Department Store (069960.KS), Lotte Shopping (023530.KS) and Shinsegae Co (004170.KS) edged up 0.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the finance ministry said in a report. The sales figure followed a 1.7 percent annual fall in February.

Sales at the country's top discount stores eased 3.8 percent last month on an annual basis, after a 23.1 percent fall posted in February, which had been attributed to technicalities related to the Lunar New Year.

A key measure of consumer sentiment from the Bank of Korea showed confidence remaining above the 100 neutral level, indicating optimism, since January 2013.

Both the government and the central bank see the economy growing by nearly 4 percent this year, partly propped by improving domestic consumption, after having grown 3.0 percent in 2013.

Meanwhile, finance ministry data showed in Tuesday's report that sales of locally-produced automobiles rose by 0.9 percent during March, following a 9.6 percent jump in the previous month.

Gasoline sales by volume fell 2.1 percent year-on-year last month after a 2.2 percent gain in February.

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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