BRUSSELS Retail sales in the euro zone registered their strongest annual growth in seven years in April, outstripping expectations and suggesting Europeans may be willing to start spending again to support the fragile recovery.
Sales in the 18 countries using the euro jumped by 2.4 percent, following on from upwardly revised growth of 1.0 percent in March, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday. Economists expected a 1.3 percent increase in April.
April's year-on-year expansion was the strongest since March 2007 when sales rose 3.0 percent, according to Eurostat.
Portugal was the only country in the euro zone where sales dropped in April.
Compared with the previous month, sales rose 0.4 percent in April, after downwardly revised growth of 0.1 percent in March. Analysts forecast a 0.1 percent rise in April.
Domestic demand in the euro zone has been stifled by persistently high unemployment and uncertainty over the future pace of growth, following the weaker than expected pace of the economic recovery in the first quarter.
In a positive sign, sales in April rose both on the month and on the year for the fourth consecutive month.
France, the second largest economy in the euro zone, recorded a 1.4 percent expansion on the month, the best reading since July 2013.
The situation also improved in Spain and Ireland, where sales returned to monthly growth.
Still, the overall picture remains fragmented.
Germany, the bloc's largest economy, saw retail sales falling on the month in April for the first time this year.
(Editing by Robin Emmott)