BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone retail sales rose at their strongest pace in more than two years in October as consumers sharply increased their purchases of non-food products, such as clothing and electrical goods.
Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro grew by 1.1 percent in October from September, breaking two months of declines, and by 2.4 percent from a year earlier, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said on Monday.
The monthly increase was the highest since August 2014, the year-on-year rise the sharpest in eight months, though the data is volatile and subject to revisions.
Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Markit, said the data boosted the prospects of consumer spending contributing to improved economic growth in the fourth quarter.
Both low inflation - of 0.6 percent in the euro zone in November -- and an unemployment rate that has fallen below 10 percent should support such spending. Consumer sentiment rose to a 2016 high in November, the European Commission reported last week.
However, steadily rising inflation over the coming months and political uncertainty could limit the improvement through 2017, Archer said.
The rise was almost exclusively due to a 2.3 percent monthly expansion of non-food sales, a set which includes textiles, electrical and medical goods, books and online shopping.
Sales of food, drinks and tobacco were up 0.2 percent, while sales of automotive fuel fell 1.0 percent.
On a monthly basis, the increase of sales was sharpest in Slovenia, Luxembourg and Germany, while sales declined in Malta, Ireland, Slovakia and Spain. Year-on-year, the only decline was in Belgium.
(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)