RTTNews - Retail sales in New Zealand grew in April, helped by an increase in auto sales, the Statistics New Zealand said Friday.

Retail sales increased 0.5% month-on-month in April, on a seasonally adjusted basis, following a 0.2% drop in the preceding month. Economists expected a rise of 0.2%. Sales of motor vehicles contributed to two-thirds of the monthly increase, rising 3.5% or NZ$18 million in April.

However, core retailing, which excludes motor vehicle related industries, dropped 0.1%, in contrast to economists' expectations of a 0.4% increase. In other retailing, sales decreased 5.1%, but department store sales rose 4% in the month.

On a year-on-year basis, retail sales slipped 1.7% in April, slower than a 1.9% fall in the previous month. Annually, retail sales were down for the sixth consecutive month in April.

Meanwhile, the statistical office said the trend in total retail sales has declined or has been flat since January last year, but the rate of fall has eased and the trend has flattened since January this year. On the other hand, the core retail trade sales has been rising since September 1995, but the growth has slowed since April 2007, rising by an average 0.1% per month.

Among the regions, sales in Waikato increased for the first time since November last year, rising 5% in April. However, Wellington recorded decreased sales, and was the only North Island region to do so.

There were signs that the government's stimulus package and lower interest rates were starting to take effect, boosting consumer spending. In its latest meeting, the central bank governor Allan Bollard said, The low OCR and stimulatory fiscal policy are the main sources of support to the New Zealand economy at present.

At the same time, Bollard said it was likely to take some time before the recovery becomes self-sustaining and monetary policy support could be withdrawn. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand held the key interest at 2.5% on Thursday.

In the meantime, the central bank chief pointed out that the rise in the value of the currency could have detrimental effects on the economic recovery. A stronger dollar at a time of weak global growth risks delaying or even reversing the projected increase in exports, putting the sustainability of recovery at risk, Bollard added.

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