Hellenic Statistical Authority data indicate that the annual decline in sales in the January-May period came to 43.7 percent, as just 59,604 new cars have been registered this year against 105,911 in the same period in 2010.
These numbers are look bad enough on an initial reading but are look even worse when we recall the Greek goverment is operating an incentive programme to encourage the scrapping of old cars and hence aid the purchase of new ones. We get a similar picture from the official retail sales figures.
The Volume Index in Retail Trade, excluding automotive fuel, recorded a fall of 17.7% in March 2011 compared with March 2010
It is my contention that month on month retail sales figures are unreliable so I took a deeper look at the numbers. Doing that shows a sequence of poor numbers which look like they are getting worse. If we look at the index itself it was rebased to 100 in 2005 and even in March last year it was at virtually the same level as it recorded 100.8. So Greek retail sales had retraced 5 years at that point which is one way of measuring the depth of the credit crunch recession. The number for March 2011 on that scale is 83.1 and the area hardest affected is clothing and footwear where the measure compared to 2005 being 100 is now 54.8.
If we take a look at the latest data for Greece we see this from the purchasing managers index.
A sharp fall in domestic demand led to the fastest contraction in new orders for three months in May. Greek goods producers responded by reducing output at a strong rate, and by cutting employment robustly……. Production at Greek goods producers decreased for the twentieth month in a row. Moreover, after slowing in March and April, the rate of contraction of output hit a three-month high in May
So the picture provided by all measures of internal economic activity in Greece remains grim and if anything appears to be getting worse. Against this the balance of trade figures have recorded an improvement with exports rising by some 12.5% in the period from January to March this year. This is how the Greek government was able to report economic growth of 0.8% in the first quarter of 2011. Whilst this is somewhat more hopeful we need to remember that balance of trade figures are the most unreliable of all and in addition the purchasing managers index report seems to suggest that it may have fizzled out or if you re-read it never have taken place.
Some grim figures, still at least with more debt they'll pay back the money they owe.