Sales at department stores in South Korea grew more than 7 percent in January from a year earlier, raising optimism that consumer spending might be picking up, preliminary government data showed Tuesday.
Department store sales rose 7.2 percent in January from a year earlier, according to the data by the finance ministry. The on-year growth rate quickened from the 0.3 percent gain tallied in the previous month.
The ministry attributed the growth to strong demand during the Lunar New Year holidays that fell on January this year and cold weather that resulted in increased sales of winter clothes.
Sales at discount chains surged. The data showed an increase of 18.4 percent on-year in January, a turnaround from the previous month's 6 percent decline.
Domestic sales of passenger vehicles manufactured here also rose 4.1 percent over the same period, following an 11.8 percent contraction in December. A cut in consumption taxes on cars of engine capacity exceeding 2,000 cc may have been a factor behind the turnaround, the ministry said.
On overall economic conditions, the ministry said that the economy is showing "stronger" recovery signs, but investment and other private-sector indicators are not strong enough.
The ministry also expressed concerns over external risks, such as the push by the U.S. to taper off its bond-purchasing program and the Japanese yen's depreciation against the local currency. (Yonhap News)