Russian economic slump shows further signs of easing

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s economy showed a potential path to recovery in April, according to retail and jobs data on Monday, further improving the outlook for a return to growth toward the end of the year.

Russia’s GDP is still estimated to fall anywhere between 0.2 percent and 1.5 percent in 2016, depending on estimates, but the raft of the recent economic activity published showed that the slump continued to ease and fourth-quarter GDP might be positive.

Retail sales, a barometer of domestic consumer demand, were down 4.8 percent, but the fall was less than the 5.8 percent seen in March and significantly less than the double-digit decline seen in the last months of 2015.

Unemployment also settled, easing to 5.9 percent in April, from 6 percent in the previous month.. Real wages declined 1.7 percent year-on-year, after rising in the previous two months, but the decline was also smaller than in many months of last year.

The data follows figures published last week, showing better than expected first-quarter GDP and industrial output returning to positive territory.

“The improvement in the Russian activity data for April ... provides further evidence that the economy is on a slow path to recovery,” Liza Ermolenko, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London, wrote in a note.

“But conditions remain difficult and the economy is only likely to return to growth toward the end of the year.”

Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Katya Golubkova; Writing by Lidia Kelly Editing by Jeremy Gaunt