Polish February retail sales contracted last month and the unemployment rate rose to the highest in six years, curbing consumer spending.
Sales fell 0.8 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 3.1 percent gain in January, the Central Statistical Office in Warsaw said today. That compared with a median forecast for a 0.7 percent increase in a Bloomberg survey of 29 economists. Retail sales dropped 2.6 percent from the previous month.
Policy makers cut interest rates to a record low this month in a bid to prevent the European Union’s largest eastern economy from sinking into its deepest slump in 12 years. Individual consumption, which accounts for 62 percent of gross domestic product, fell for the first time since 1996 last quarter. More cuts are possible if economic growth undershoots expectations, Governor Marek Belka said last week.
“Demand is looking weak as consumers prefer to save rather than spend amid uncertainty,” Grzegorz Ogonek, an economist at ING Groep NV’s Polish unit, said by phone from Warsaw yesterday. “The central bank has already acknowledged the economy is having a problem with consumption.”
In a separate report today, Poland’s unemployment rate rose to 14.4 last month, the highest since March 2007, from 14.2 percent in January, the statistics office said. That compared with a median forecast of 14.5 percent in a Bloomberg survey of 28 economists.
Sales at CCC SA fell 4.8 percent from a year earlier last month after its 2012 net income missed analyst estimates, Poland’s biggest publicly-traded shoe retailer said on March 4.
E.Leclerc, the French supermarket chain that operates 40 Polish stores, doesn’t see any signs of improving demand as consumers cut spending on home appliances and electronics, according to Krzysztof Gajewski, who runs a store in the Warsaw district of Bielany. Its sales “stagnated” in January and February compared with last year, he said.
“It’s the worst crisis we’ve seen,” Gajewski said in an interview in Warsaw yesterday. “Sales had increased almost constantly until now, but consumer spending isn’t propelling economic growth this time round.”
E.Leclerc has been in Poland since 1995, the longest of any foreign supermarket chain.
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