SEOUL Nov 6 Sales at South Korea's top department and discount store chains contracted simultaneously in October, preliminary data showed on Tuesday, reflecting weak consumer sentiment as the global slowdown continues to weigh on the export-driven economy.
Sales at department stores run by the country's top three chain operators fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier, according the finance ministry's monthly greenbook report, slightly worse than the 0.8 percent decline in September.
Sales at the country's top three discount store chains fell 7.4 percent in October from a year earlier, compared with a 0.2 percent rise in September.
Sales at department and discount store chains have contracted simultaneously in four of the past five months as heavily leveraged households have cut spending to guard against what is expected to be a prolonged period of weak growth for South Korea.
Quarterly growth for Asia's fourth-largest economy in the July-September period slowed to a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent, the slowest pace in nearly three years, as the fallout from the euro zone fiscal crisis undercut global demand for Korean products.
The deteriorating outlook has also weighed on domestic demand, prompting two rate cuts by the Bank of Korea - in July and October - and nearly $12 billion in government stimulus for the year to support growth.
Finance ministry data also showed October sales of locally- produced automobiles grew by 4.3 percent from a year earlier, marking the first growth since May. The data was likely boosted by a temporary sales tax break on automobiles announced in September as part of a government stimulus package.
Gasoline sales in volume terms also grew by 6.3 percent year-on-year in October, accelerating from a 0.7 percent rise in September.
(Reporting By Se Young Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer)