ECONOMY

In Brief

Retail sales rise for first time since October 2008 Greece’s retail sales by volume rose 5.8 percent year-on-year in January after a 0.2 percent drop in December, data by the country’s National Statistical Service showed yesterday. Retail sales by revenues rose 8.1 percent year-on-year in January after a 2.7 percent increase in the previous month. With the economy in recession for a second year in 2010 and unemployment rising, analysts do not expect the improvement in January to be sustained in the coming months. «Retail sales by volume grew for the first time since October 2008, reflecting a good month of discounts in the sector, which is in line with an improved consumer confidence reading in the last quarter of 2009,» said Nikos Magginas, economist at National Bank. «The big drop in consumer spending last year allows for favorable base effects in the first months of 2010 but the current deterioration in consumer sentiment is expected to hurt retail sales in the second quarter.» (Reuters) Turkey emerges from deep recession ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey emerged from a crippling recession with strong 6.0 percent growth in the fourth quarter, official data showed yesterday, supporting analysts’ forecasts of similar growth this year. The growth in gross domestic product, which exceeded market expectations of 4.0 percent, broke a slump that had lasted for four quarters. The surge at the end of the year helped to reduce contraction of the economy in 2009 to 4.7 percent, the Turkish statistics institute said. The government had projected a 6.0 percent contraction for 2009, and the International Monetary Fund had estimated that the Turkish economy was likely to shrink by 6.5 percent for the whole of 2009. Gas market Greece said on Tuesday it had put the finishing touches on legislation to open to competition the country’s 1.5-billion-euro ($2.03 billion) natural gas market. The Energy Ministry said it had signed into law a batch of rules that clarify licensing and other technical issues. «This completes harmonization of Greek with European Union legislation and effectively liberalizes the Greek natural gas market,» it said in a statement. Red tape keeps private operators from competing with state monopoly DEPA. In December, private energy firms Motor Oil and Mytilineos had to cancel the country’s first private import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) because grid operator DESFA delayed approving it. Liberalization of Greece’s natural gas market will make it easier for the country to achieve an ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations run by state-controlled Public Power Corporation. LNG from Algeria currently accounts for nearly a quarter of Greece’s total annual natural gas imports of about 4 billion cubic meters, with the rest coming via a pipeline from Russia. (Reuters) Modest growth Romania probably had «modest» economic growth in the first quarter as international demand for its industrial goods picked up, Deputy Central Bank Governor Cristian Popa said. «The figure we see is modest and positive, but we’re talking about a main scenario with uncertainties on both sides,» Popa said. (Bloomberg)