BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Retail sales in the euro zone fell for the second month in a row in March, underlining the bloc's struggle with record joblessness and restricted credit for consumers and businesses.
The volume of retail trade fell by 0.1 percent on the month, in line with the expectations of economists polled by Reuters, following a 0.2 percent drop in February, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Monday.
Shoppers in the 17-member single currency area spent on food, drinks and tobacco in March, but not enough to offset a decline in spending on goods such as clothes and computers.
The year-on-year reading showed a worse-than-expected 2.4 percent drop, as economists polled by Reuters forecast a 2.2 percent decline, following a 1.7 percent fall in February.
In a sign of the depth of the downturn in southern Europe, retail sales in Spain dropped 10.5 percent on an annual basis, the biggest slump of all euro zone countries in the month.
More than 6 million Spaniards are out of work in the euro zone's fourth biggest economy, a level unseen since records began in the 1970s.
Across the euro zone, households are dealing with the aftermath of 2008/2009 global financial crisis and the ensuing euro zone debt crisis.
Weak consumer spending is a concern for the European Central Bank, which lowered its main interest rate to a record low of 0.50 percent last week.
(Reporting By Martin Santa and Robin Emmott)