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Russian Retail-Sales Growth Slowest in 3 Years, Missing Forecast

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March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Russian retail sales grew at the slowest pace in three years in February as inflation accelerated, eroding household purchasing power.

Receipts at merchants advanced 2.5 percent from a year earlier, down from 3.5 percent in January, the Federal Statistics Service in Moscow said by e-mail today. Economists forecast a 3.3 percent increase, according to the median of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Retail sales fell 1.8 percent in the month.

Faster inflation and stagnating wages are choking the consumer spending that accounts for about about half the economy of the world’s biggest energy exporter. Gross domestic product expanded 1.6 percent from year earlier in January, compared with 2.4 percent in December, less than the 5 percent growth goal set by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“We attribute the gradual slowdown of retail-sales growth to a deterioration of consumer sentiment and a deceleration of retail-credit expansion,” Julia Tsepliaeva, chief economist at BNP Paribas, said by e-mail. “Although economic performance remained sluggish in February, the data do not look alarming and are unlikely to result in immediate policy reaction.”

Consumer prices advanced 7.3 percent in February, accelerating from 7.1 percent in January and 6.6 percent in December. Price growth remains the main concern of a majority of Russians, alongside problems in housing and utilities, according to a poll published Jan. 31 by the state-run All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion.

Real wages increased 5 percent from a year earlier, down from 8 percent in January. Unemployment fell to 5.8 percent from 6 percent in January, the statistics service said.

Fixed-capital investment growth slowed to 0.3 percent from 1.1 percent in January, less than the 1 percent median estimate of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Olga Tanas in Moscow at otanas@bloomberg.net; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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