Singapore retail sales logged an annual decline for the fifth straight month as consumers cut their spending amid rising unemployment and recession.

According to Department of Statistics, retail sales were down 5.7% over a year ago in February. However, it was slower than January's 12.2% drop and 6% decline expected by economists. Excluding motor vehicles, sales slipped 10.2%.

After adjusting price effect, retail sales volume decreased 8.4%, and sales that exclude automobile slid 10.9% in February.

Compared with January, retail sales showed 15.5% decline in February, but increased 10.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis. Excluding automobile, retail sales fell 23.4% before adjusting seasonal variations.

The statistical office noted annual decreases in the range of 9.8% to 25.8% in sales of food and beverages, wearing apparel and footwear, watches and jewellery and furniture and household equipment. Due to lower petrol prices, petrol service stations reported lower receipts of 18.7%.

By contrast, optical goods and books, medical goods and toiletries and motor vehicles retailers recorded higher receipts of 6.2% to 11.5% from the previous year.

Retail sales value was estimated at S$2.4 billion compared to S$2.9 billion in January.

Catering trade dropped 12.5% over January with lower turnover in all segments. Annually, catering trade dropped 9.6%. Catering trade was valued at S$385 million, smaller than the S$440 million in the previous month.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said it expects Singapore's GDP to contract 6% to 9% in 2009, lower than the contraction of 2% to 5% that it had forecast on January, 21.

Also, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has re-centered the trading band of the S$NEER, while retaining the existing policy of zero percent appreciation, without any changes to the width of the band.

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