Euro zone retail sales return to growth in May

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Retail sales in the euro zone rose for the first time in four months in May, helped by spending on food, clothes and computers, a sign that households could help an economic recovery.

The volume of retail trade in the 17-nation bloc jumped by much stronger-than-expected 1.0 percent in the month, following a 0.2 percent decline in April, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Wednesday. Economists polled by Reuters only expected a 0.2 percent increase in May.

The monthly acceleration was driven by a 0.9 percent increase in sales of food, drinks and tobacco products, as well as a 0.9 percent rise in sales of electrical goods, computer equipment, clothing and footwear.

The year-on-year reading showed a much smaller-than-expected 0.1 percent drop for May. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a 2.0 percent decline, following a 1.0 percent fall in April.

In a sign of relief for southern Europe, retail sales in Spain jumped by 1.2 percent on a monthly basis and eased their annual rate of decline to 6.3 percent in May.

Across the euro zone, households are dealing with the aftermath of 2008/2009 global financial crisis and the bloc is in its longest recession since the creation of the euro in 1999.

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 in May, but which is expected to keep rates on hold on Thursday.

(Reporting by Martin Santa; editing by Robin Emmott)