(Corrects December sales decline to 3.6 percent from 1.8
percent, and corrects revision for previous month, both in 2nd
* Retail sales fall 1.8 pct in Dec
* Miss Reuters poll expectations for 1.1 pct fall
MEXICO CITY, Feb 21 Mexican retail sales eased
more than expected in December, the national statistics office
said on Thursday, raising concerns about whether internal demand
can buoy growth in 2013.
Retail sales fell 3.6 percent from the prior
month, missing expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.1 percent
contraction, compared with a downwardly revised 0.73 percent
expansion notched the previous month.
Healthy consumer spending helped Mexican output heat up in
the fourth quarter last year, picking up the slack from a
manufacturing cooling that had previously sheltered the country
from the worst of the global slowdown.
But the dip in retail sales sparks fresh worries about
growth this year.
Mexican consumer confidence slipped off of a nearly
five-year high in January as shoppers in Latin America's second
biggest economy showed less willingness to make big purchases.
Mexico's central bank said it could cut interest rates if
inflation continues to cool and economic growth flags, but has
held rates steady at 4.5 percent since 2009.
The bank expects growth this year to come in a range of 3
percent to 4 percent, on par with its last quarterly review.
Retail sales in December dropped 1.8 percent
from a year earlier, compared to expectations for a 2.1 percent
rise and a 3.5 percent annual rate in November.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper)