Belgium begins a modest recovery.


In November, well before official retail statistics were released for the start of the third quarter 2005, a review of Belgium's economy for 2005, published by the website (Brussels) said that consumption appeared to be declining.

But on December 21, 2005, Statistics Belgium released the most current official statistics on Belgium's retail sector. The period covered was through October 2005.

Almost all of the volume indicators showed increases. For example, the October 2005 volume indicator for total retail sales matched the year's high of 123, which was posted in June 2005. All of the other volume indicators were at or near 2005 highs with the exception of the miscellaneous category.

The volume indicator for "household equipment" reached its high in July 2005 when the index reached 150. The October index was 136 indicating that sales for these more expensive items were seasonal.

Still, the volume index for "household equipment" showed steadiness toward the end of the year. In 2004, the "household equipment" index peaked at 171 in December 2004, obviously reflecting a surge of holiday sales. The October 2004 volume figure was 124. The nearly 10 percent increase in October 2005 from October 2004 is one of the positive signs to emerge from the retail numbers. Consumers were in the stores spending more for these big ticket items compared with a year earlier.

Some indication of where...

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