Car sales growth in Germany and Spain spurs optimism
Car sales rose in Germany and Spain last month, adding to signs that Europe's austerity-driven auto slump could soon bottom out.
Spanish car sales increased 11 percent while registrations in Germany, the region's biggest market, advanced 4 percent for the first gain in six months, national industry body data showed on Friday.
The numbers build on data showing that the drop in car sales in France slowed to 5 percent in April from a 16 percent fall in March. In Italy, where sales fell 11 percent last month, there was cautious optimism that political uncertainty ended.
Germany's VDIK association of car importers said the April rise was helped by a 5 percent increase in demand from private buyers, as well as an extra business day compared with March.
The VDIK sees growing signs that consumer confidence is firming up. "This could mark the beginning of a long-awaited stabilization," a spokesman said.
Morgan Stanley said the April sales figures will ease fears of a sustained slide in the German market that arose after a 17 percent decline in March. It had expected a 7 percent drop in April.
"This marks the highest selling rate since last August and will ease fears that have built around the market," Morgan Stanley analyst Stuart Pearson said in a note. The March and April numbers for Germany imply an annualized rate of 3.1 million car sales, Morgan Stanley said.
Europe's debt crisis and record unemployment have resulted in the longest, deepest auto slump in recent history. European automakers are forecasting that the region's market will fall by up to 5 percent for 2013 and are searching for signs that the market will recover in the second half.
"We've fallen so far that you'd think we'd hit bottom and there are signs we're starting to stabilize," said Nicolas Lopez, head of research at Madrid-based brokerage M&G Valores. "Don't expect sales to suddenly rise, but it's hard to fall much further."
In Italy, some industry watchers believe underlying demand is building after an April 30 confidence vote in Italy's new Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, filled a two-month political vacuum left by parliamentary elections.
"The end of this exasperating political crisis could mean a return to optimism," said Gian Primo Quagliano, head of the Centro Studi Promotor automotive research institute. "We're seeing a glimmer of recovery."
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