SEOUL Jan 8 Sales at South Korea's top
department stores rose for the second straight month in
December, preliminary government data showed on Tuesday, but the
pick-up may be too modest to suggest the country's economy is
staging a firm turnaround.
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store
Co Ltd, Lotte Shopping Co Ltd and
Shinsegae Co Ltd rose 0.7 percent from a year
earlier, the finance ministry estimated in its monthly report.
It was the first time in a year that department store sales
had risen for two consecutive months, but the ministry said
sales growth in December was weighed down by unusually cold
weather and heavy snow.
Sales at the country's top discount stores fell 5.9 percent
from a year earlier, marking the third consecutive month of
contraction and deteriorating from a 1.7 percent year-on-year
fall in November.
The data underscored views that Asia's fourth-largest
economy did not have a sharp pick-up in the October-December
"Conditions for private consumption like inflation and
employment are favourable, but the recovery in consumer
sentiment continues to be delayed," the finance ministry said.
Sales of locally produced automobiles rose 7.5 percent last
month from a year earlier, the data showed, as consumers sought
to take advantage of an expiring tax break.
But gasoline sales by volume fell 5.8 percent, as the heavy
snow during the month discouraged driving.
Separately, the finance ministry said weak investment and
increased exchange-rate volatility continued to pose risks to
the domestic economy amid uncertainties stemming from worries
about the U.S. debt limit and the euro zone's delayed economic
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy will release final
December sales figures for department and discount store sales
later this month.
(Reporting By Se Young Lee; Editing by Chris Gallagher)