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ECONOMY

Retail sales robust despite rising food and petrol prices

Higher interest rates and rising prices for food and fuel put pressure on Sweden’s building materials and electronics sales in June, but the overall retail sales picture remains strong, according to new statistics.

Sales increased by 2.3 percent in June compared with the same month last year, as measured by current prices, according to figures released by Statistics Sweden and the Swedish Research Institute of Trade (HUI).

Higher interest rates and sky-high fuel prices have caused Swedish households to be more careful since the start of the year.

And run away food prices have also reduced families’ purchasing power, a phenomenon confirmed by sales results in the the building materials and electronics retail trade.

“June was a somewhat weaker month than what we’ve seen so far this year and that is seen in particular in the show and jewelry retail sales. Building materials and hardware store sales, which last year increased by around 10 percent, went up only 0.1 percent in June,” said Jessica Lindblom, a retail sales analyst at HUI, to the TT news agency.

“But looking at the retail sales figures overall so far this year, we have an increase of 5.2 percent and that is still a relatively strong growth rate,” she added.

Food prices rose 6.8 percent in June, which caused general grocery store sales to rise by 3.8 percent.

“We’re still spending the same amount of money on food, but we’re now getting less food for the money,” said Lindblom.

Overall, June retail sales figures handily beat analysts’ expectations.

ECONOMY

Swedish bank’s IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

A technical problem at Sweden's Swedbank on Thursday night gave customers a nasty surprise, with their account balances inexplicably going negative, payments impossible, and Swish payments no longer working.

Swedish bank's IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

By 11.30pm, more than 2,000 Swedbank customers had reported the fault to the site Downdetector, and the problem was still not solved by 17.00pm on Friday. 

“We have an ongoing IT disruption where certain customers see an incorrect balance on their accounts,” a message on the bank’s app read. “The reason is a planned update to our internal systems which went wrong. We apologise, of course, for that and are working as quickly as possible to fix the problem.” 

The Swish payment service has also been affected, with the service, which is owned collectively by Swedish banks, reporting on its site that there was a “technical disruption at Swedbank and Sparbank which might affect Swish payments from these banks”. 

Some Swedbank customers posted their negative account balances on Twitter, expressing shock at the incorrect figures. 

The disruption comes at the worst possible time for many Swedes. Many people are paid on the 25th of the month, meaning this Friday marks the start of the payday weekend. Many will have also scheduled their bill payments for this Friday. 

Marko Saric from Malmö saw his account balance drop by 1.2 million kronor, going half a million kronor into the red. 

“It’s just totally crazy,” he told SVT. “We were going to go out and shop for the weekend. It’s lovely weather and the kids want to go out, but we can’t use our card. We’ve got no cash. Everything is in the bank.” 

“You’re just completely blocked. Colleagues need to make emergency food parcels for you. It’s just crazy that something like this should happen.” 

In its statement, the bank assured customers that their money was “secure”, and that the bank still had the correct information on what their account balance should be. 

“Customers who feel that they have suffered economic damage as a result of the disruption should contact the bank,” the message said.

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