Singapore retail sales fall most since 1999


Singapore’s retail sales fell the most in more than ten years in April as rising unemployment and the nation’s deepest economic slump in more than four decades led consumers to buy fewer cars and household equipment.

The retail sales index dropped 11.7 percent from a year earlier, after sliding a revised 7.2 percent in March, the Statistics Department said today. The median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for an 8.1 percent decline. Adjusted for seasonal factors, sales fell 3.1 percent from March.

Singapore’s economy is forecast by the government to shrink as much as 9 percent this year, forcing companies to cut jobs and wages as demand slows. Visitor arrivals to the island have also dropped as the global slowdown hurts business and holiday travel, slashing revenue for hotels, retailers and restaurants.

“People are still wary about buying big-ticket items, and unemployment numbers show hiring is still pretty soft,” said David Cohen, head of Asian forecasting at Action Economics in Singapore. “Tourist arrivals have fallen and things will be slow in picking up.”

Singapore’s unemployment rate rose to 3.3 percent last quarter from 2.5 percent in the previous period, the Ministry of Manpower said today. Employers cut 12,760 jobs and total employment contracted for the first time in almost six years. Average wages fell 3.7 percent in the same period, the first drop in 6 1/2 years, the ministry said.

Vehicle sales fell 28.1 percent in April from the same month in 2008.

Purchases of apparel and footwear dropped 6.1 percent while sales of furniture and household equipment declined 11.2 percent from a year earlier. Sales at gas stations slipped 20.8 percent amid lower oil prices.

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