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By Anthony Esposito
SANTIAGO, June 30 (Reuters) - Chilean manufacturing production and retail sales continued their slowing trend in May, though frenzied soccer fans splashing out on new televisions and stocking up on beverages and food ahead of games lent some support.
Manufacturing output rose 1.2 percent in May from a year earlier, due to an increase in the food and beverages sector, according to the INE.
The increase was higher than a Reuters poll forecast for a 1.0 percent increase, and the biggest expansion in 10 months.
Retail sales rose 4.9 percent in May versus a year earlier, the second slowest pace of growth since late 2009, the INE national statistics agency said on Monday.
“Even though growth was greater than the 1.6 percent posted the previous month, the (May) figure continues to show signs of deceleration compared to those observed in the first quarter of the year and all of 2013,” said the INE.
Analysts suggest that fans gearing up for Chile’s participation in the World Cup lifted consumption in May.
The economy of the world’s top copper producer has been slowing on the back of cooling domestic demand, especially investment, and in recent months weakening consumption as well.
But the World Cup in regional powerhouse Brazil appears to have helped lure Chileans back to the shopping malls.
Retail sales “beat our expectations and market forecasts too, boosted mainly by the television sales prior to the World Cup,” brokerage Banchile Inversiones said in a note to clients.
Meanwhile, factory data “continues to show weakness and highlights a scenario of economic deceleration,” said economist Antonio Moncado with Bci Estudios.
The jump in manufacturing production is due in large part to a favorable base of comparison, as it fell 4.8 percent in May 2013, Moncado added.
Chile’s jobless rate for the March to May period rose to 6.3 percent, from 6.1 percent in February to April, the government also said on Monday.
That was slightly better than expectations for an increase to 6.4 percent.
“The annual growth rates of employment and the labor force moderated during the period, consistent with previous evidence of an incipient slowdown in the labor market,” said Tiago Severo at Goldman Sachs.
“(But) the May jobs report, combined with better-than-expected leading indicators of activity released this morning, should mitigate concerns about a sharp loss of momentum of the Chilean economy,” said Severo. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Chizu Nomiyama)