Department stores, chains record bumper January

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Department stores, chains record bumper January

Sales at Korea’s top department stores and discount chains surged in January compared with a year earlier, preliminary data showed yesterday, cementing hopes for a sustained recovery in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Combined sales at the department store chains run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae rose 7.2 percent in January from a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said in a monthly report.

This marked the strongest growth in sales since March 2013 and follows a revised 0.3 percent drop in December.

Sales at the country’s top discount stores also rose by a sharp 18.4 percent in annual terms last month, following a revised 5.7 percent decline in December and marking the strongest gain since January 2011.

The data supports the government’s expectation of a continued recovery in the Korean economy, which saw quarterly growth ease slightly to a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent during the October-December period from 1.1 percent in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry said in yesterday’s report that sales of locally produced cars rose 4.1 percent in January over a year before, marking the first gain in five months thanks to a consumption tax cut.

Gasoline sales by volume fell 1.8 percent in annual terms last month, however, following a 2.6 percent rise in December.

The Finance Ministry said signs of recovery for the Korean economy are growing stronger, although warning that the pick-up in private-sector activity remains uncertain. It also flagged risks stemming from the U.S. tapering of quantitative easing and the yen’s weakness.

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