Japanese retail sales rose less than expected in May as sales of durable goods and clothes slowed, falling substantially from April's annual increase though analysts expect sales to continue rising as a trend.
Retail sales rose for the seventh straight month at 2.0 percent in May from a year ago, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Thursday. It slowed from 3.2 percent in April and undershot the median estimate of 2.6 percent growth in a Reuters poll.
"May retail sales weren't that strong, but I don't think they were that bad either," said Hidenobu Tokuda, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.
May this year had one fewer Sunday than last year, which dampened sales, Tokuda added.Other economists pointed to weak sales of food and clothing in May. "I don't think consumer spending is rising that much overall," said Norio Miyagawa, senior economist at Mizuho Securities.
Sales of durable goods such as televisions grew 0.8 percent in May, slowing from the 4.4 percent annual rise in April.
Sales of clothing grew 2.5 percent in May from a year earlier, down from the 5.9 percent annual rise in April, and sales of food and beverages rose a meagre 0.1 percent in May on-year, down from the 1.3 percent increase in April.
A Reuters poll showed household spending likely slipped 0.6 percent in May from a year earlier, down for 15 straight months, although the rate of decline slowed from a 1.4 percent drop in April. The internal affairs ministry will release household spending data on Friday.
A separate government survey showed consumer confidence rose slightly in May from the previous month.
In a show of confidence in the recovering economy, the Bank of Japan upgraded its assessment of private consumption for the first time in six months at its June meeting, when it kept monetary policy steady.
The government has also raised its overall view of the economy for the first time in six months because of the growth in private consumption.