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March retail sales up 16.2 percent

Retail sales in March grew by an annual 16.2 percent from a low base, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) said on Wednesday.

Calendar-year data also showed 16.2 percent growth.

Food sales increased by 0.2 percent, non-food sales by 29.7 percent, while vehicle fuel sales jumped by 51.4 percent.

Commenting on the data, analysts said that retail sails had grown on the back of bonuses and tax refunds paid in February, fuel tourism induced by the government price cap, the low base, and inflation expectations.

Gergely Suppan of Magyar Bankholding said retail turnover exceeded expectations in March. One-off government measures such as the PIT refund for families raising children, the 13th month pension, and allowances for service members boosted already robust wage growth, which was around 13 percent, he said. Retail sales grew on the back of price caps on fuel and basic foods near the border, where it boosted shopping tourism, he said. In view of those tendencies, Bankholding expects retail growth to be above 10 percent this year, he said.

Peter Virovacz of ING Bank said the two-digit jump in retail sales came after a rise of 7.3 growth in 2021, indicating that, besides the low pandemic-related base, other factors such as fuel tourism, aid to and consumption by Ukrainian refugees, and inflation expectations may have played a role. He said the March data were likely indicative of a blip rather than structural change, though growth at this level was “definitely unsustainable” and would raise first-quarter GDP greatly, he said.

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