ECONOMY

In Brief

December retail sales rise 0.1 percent y/y Retail sales by volume rose 0.1 percent year-on-year in December, slowing from a 1.9 percent year-on-year increase in November, data from the country’s statistics service (NSS) showed yesterday. Retail sales by revenues grew 3.2 percent year-on-year in December after a 5.2 percent rise in the previous month. «The overall figures were not a surprise. December’s figures may be a little low, but the overall average for the year of about 2.3 percent is in line with our forecasts,» commented Dimitris Maroulis, an economist with Alpha Bank. «There is a positive development with the rise in private consumer spending of about 3 percent.» (Reuters) Producer prices accelerate at fastest pace since 2000 Greek producer prices, an early indicator of consumer price inflation, increased at the fastest pace in more than seven years in January due to rising energy costs. Industrial producer prices rose 9.4 percent from a year earlier, Greece’s national statistics office said today in an e-mailed statement. That’s the fastest pace since October 2000. Crude oil prices rose 65 percent last year and reached a record of more than $103 a barrel today. Energy costs in Greece rose 22.8 percent in January, the report said. «It’ll be difficult for producers to absorb that kind of price pressure,» Nikos Magginas, an economist at National Bank of Greece SA, the country’s biggest lender, said in a telephone interview. (Bloomberg) M&S-Marinopoulos Marks and Spencer Plc (M&S), Britain’s biggest clothing retailer, has bought a half share in a franchise operation in Eastern Europe as part of its drive to expand abroad. M&S, which also sells food and homewares, said it had bought 50 percent of a venture with Greece’s privately owned Marinopoulos BV which operates 38 M&S stores in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Switzerland, for 50 million euros cash. It said the venture planned to open 50 new stores in these markets over the next few years. (Reuters) Turkish trade deficit Turkey’s trade deficit widened 41.8 percent to $5.71 billion in January, the Turkish Statistics Institute said yesterday, exceeding a Reuters poll forecast of $5.6 billion. Financial markets closely watch the trade figures – which are a major component of Turkey’s large current account gap – but were closed when the data was released. The statistics offices revised the December deficit to $6.046 billion from a previously reported $6.372 billion. The deficit in January 2007 stood at $4.027 billion. (Reuters) Kremikovtzi suitors A Turkish company has thrown its hat in the ring for Bulgaria’s largest steelmaker, Kremikovtzi, bringing the number of suitors for the ailing plant to five, Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov said yesterday. «Five investors have expressed an interest in buying the steel mill, and all could be called strategic,» Dimitrov told parliament. He declined to name the companies, but said two were Ukrainian, one was from the USA, one Russian and one Turkish. (Reuters)