Except that, elsewhere, the figures aren’t quite so reassuring.
According to the Markit Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), the eurozone’s appetite for goods and services has actually shrunk, falling to 49.3 in February from 50.4 in January. This is bad news: a reading of less than 50 indicates a contraction in private sector financial activity.
Figures for Greece and Spain, the eurozone’s biggest casualties, were not released. Perhaps because they were excluded from the report? Doubtless their economies would have pulled sales growth figures into minus territory. But we do know that the composite PMI at EU powerhouse Germany has fallen to a two-month low of 53.2 in February. There are a few over-achievers on the list, however: Latvia’s retail sales are up 6.4%, Slovenia’s are 5.5% higher, and Romania is up 3%. Evidence of new boom markets, perhaps?
Howard Archer, economist at research firm IHS Global Insight, says: ‘While January's eurozone retail sales data were modestly better than expected, they do not hugely dilute concerns that weak consumer spending remains a serious threat to hopes that eurozone economic activity can return to growth in the first quarter of 2012.’
Too early for the party poppers then…