ATHENS, Jan 31 Greek retail sales continued to slump at a near-record pace in November, the country's statistics agency said on Thursday, highlighting the pain EU/IMF-imposed austerity is inflicting on household consumption. The plunge in private consumption has been the biggest driver of the country's six-year recession, which is expected to shrink national output (GDP) by about 24 percent in 2008-2013. Retail sales by volume fell 16.8 percent year-on-year in November after an 18.1 percent drop in the previous month, statistics agency ELSTAT said. Fuel sales dropped by 16 percent in January-November, footwear and apparel by 21 percent and supermarket sales by 8.1 percent. The retail sector is bearing the brunt of mass unemployment, soaring taxes and plunging wages - the fallout from Greece's international bailout. Greeks have slashed spending in response to a fall in real disposable income of almost a third since austerity began in 2010. Thousands of stores and smaller retail companies have shut down during the debt crisis, which began in late 2009. Sprider Stores, a big clothing chain, and furniture retailer Neoset both filed for bankruptcy protection in recent weeks. Foreign firms such as German supermarket chain Aldi and French multi-media retailer Fnac, which set up shop in Greece to benefit from a debt-fuelled consumer boom after it joined the euro in 2001, have already left the country. Private consumption accounts for about three quarters of the Greek economy, the biggest share in any euro area country. Economists expect falling consumption to remain a drag on the economy this year, despite a slight improvement in consumer confidence after Athens secured more bailout funds in December, at the price of more austerity. "Despite the gradual improvement in confidence over the past two months, pressure is expected to continue in the first half of 2013," said Nikos Magginas, an economist with National Bank. Below is a table with the latest retail sales numbers. ************************************************************ KEY FIGURES NOV OCT SEPT AUG Retail sales* by volume (y/y) -16.8 -18.1 -11.8 -9.3 Retail sales* by revenue (y/y) -16.6 -17.1 -10.4 -7.3 ----------------------------------------------------- * Includes fuels and auto lubricants source: ELSTAT
UPDATE 1-Hedge fund Paulson & Co discloses 6.3 pct stake in Valeant
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