* S.Korea official says unclear whether economy has bottomed
* Industrial production under threat from rising won
(Adds comment from finance ministry official, details on data)
SEOUL Feb 7 South Korea warned on Thursday that
its economy may have further to fall after estimating record
declines in sales at top department and discount stores last
month, emphasizing the severity of headwinds now facing Asia's
"It's not clear whether the economy has bottomed," said Choi
Sang-mok, director-general of economic policy at the Ministry of
Strategy and Finance. "Some indicators have improved but we need
to monitor the data trends a bit more."
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store
, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae
fell by 8.4 percent from a year earlier, the finance
ministry estimated in a monthly report, compared with a 0.2
percent decline in December and marking the biggest decline
going back to 2005.
Sales at the country's top three discount store chains last
month also fell by a record 24.3 percent from a year earlier,
according to the estimates, compared with a 5.0 percent decline
The data highlights weak prospects for South Korea in the
first quarter as feeble private consumption at home adds to
challenges facing exporters. The won's continued appreciation
against the yen is already eating into some firms'
profitability, which may lead to job losses and reduced
The ministry said South Korea's industrial production could
be weighed by slowing daily overseas shipments growth for key
export products such as electronics and cars.
Meanwhile, sales of locally-produced cars rose by 1.6
percent from a year earlier in January, easing from a 7.5
percent rise in December as tax breaks expired at the end of
Sale of gasoline by volume rose by 2.7 percent from a year
earlier in January, rebounding form a 2.8 percent decline in
Some of the weakness in department and discount store sales
in January was attributed to the fact that the Lunar New Year
holidays are in February this year. The Ministry of Knowledge
Economy will release revised data on the sales later this month.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Additional reporting by Lee
Shin-hyung; Editing by Eric Meijer)