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Japan’s retail sales slipped 1.8 percent in August from a year earlier to 10.13 trillion yen, following a 1.0 percent rise in July, as strong demand for digital consumer electronics in connection with the Athens Olympics peaked, the government said Wednesday.

Sales by wholesalers rose 5.0 percent to 32.03 trillion yen, for the third straight monthly increase, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.

Combined wholesale and retail sales gained 3.3 percent to 42.16 trillion yen, up for the third month in a row, METI said.

Retail sales fell in five out of the past six months, March through June, and August.

But METI left its overall assessment of the retail market unchanged from the previous month, saying, “There is an incipient sign of recovery.”

“The negative readings in the five months stemmed from one-off factors such as typhoons,” and the ministry will closely observe the movement in September, a METI official said.

In the retail sector, sales of minerals and metals increased 6.1 percent on large hikes in gasoline and gas oil figures because of soaring crude oil prices.

Sales of automobiles climbed 2.0 percent on makers’ new-model launches.

By contrast, sales of machinery and equipment skidded 7.8 percent, following robust sales in July of air conditioners and digital home electronic appliances, such as flat-screen televisions and DVD recorders and players, ahead of the Olympics.

Sales of apparel and accessories shrank 3.2 percent as hot weather in the first half of August and typhoons in the second half discouraged consumers from buying autumn clothing, the official said.

In contrast to slack retail sales, sales by wholesalers grew by more than 5 percent for the third consecutive month.

“Sales by wholesalers tend to reflect surging crude oil prices more directly than retail sales,” the official said.

August sales by large retailers — supermarkets and department stores — fell 3.4 percent from a year before to 1.64 trillion yen after a 0.1 percent gain the previous month.

Department store sales dropped 5.2 percent to 593.9 billion yen, down for the sixth straight month, and supermarket sales shrank 2.4 percent to 1.05 trillion yen after 1.3 percent growth in July.

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