SEOUL (Reuters)—Sales at South Korea’s top department and discount stores fell in December for a fourth consecutive month, though the pace of declines slowed, preliminary government data showed on Friday.

Combined sales last month at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae Co edged down 0.3 percent from a year ago in December, the finance ministry’s estimates showed.

That was an improvement from a sharp 6.5 percent drop seen in November.

Sales at the top discount stores fell 3.6 percent last month from a year earlier, versus a 4.7 percent decline in November. The finance ministry said that despite the latest falls, the recovery in retail sales was steady in December.

Retail sales took a turn for the worse since September last year after customers shut their wallets due to persistent uncertainty over the economic outlook.

The trade ministry will release final sales numbers later in the month.

Friday’s data also showed sales of locally produced automobiles last month jumped an annual 27.2 percent in December, sharply accelerating from a 7.0 percent gain in November.

Gasoline sales by volume last month rose 1.6 percent on annual terms, rebounding from a 2.2 percent fall seen in November.

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