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14 May 2010

Decline in car sales drags down Singapore retail sales

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Singapore’s retail sales unexpectedly fell in March as rising car prices prompted consumers to hold off purchases, a decline that may ease as record economic growth and improving tourism revive spending in the coming months, the Bloomberg News reported.

The retail sales index slid 2.4 percent from a year earlier after gaining a revised 4.6 percent in February, the Statistics Department said today. The median estimate of seven economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 1 percent gain.

“Weaker car sales continue to exert a drag on the numbers,” Alvin Liew, an economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, said before the report.

Car prices “were driven higher due to the shortage of certificates of entitlement that allow the ownership of cars.”

Singapore employers expanded payrolls for a third straight quarter in the period ended March 31 as faster economic growth prompted companies to increase hiring at casinos and factories. Visitor arrivals are surging as resorts run by Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Genting Singapore Plc attract tourists to their roulette tables, shops and hotels.

The “improved job market and higher tourist inflows should underpin retail spending,” Frances Cheung, senior strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said before the report. Visitor arrivals rose 17.3 percent in March from a year earlier.

Singapore’s $182 billion economy grew an annualized 32.1 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months, the fastest pace since at least 1975, when Bloomberg data began.

Vehicle sales fell 26 percent, while purchases at gas stations gained 17.6 percent from a year earlier.

Sales of food and beverages declined 1.7 percent in March from a year earlier, the report showed. Department-store sales by companies including Metro Holdings Ltd. climbed 4.1 percent, and supermarket sales slid 2.5 percent.


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