High prices for diesel and gas have driven eurozone travelers away from the pumps, leading to a drop in retail trade that is the largest in five months.
Reuters reported Wednesday that even though global demand for oil was sluggish over the past three months, thanks to tight economic conditions caused in part by the eurozone crisis, in August Brent crude neared $120 per barrel, and its price remained elevated throughout a good part of September and October.
Tightening belts kept eurozone motorists away from the gas pumps, and as a result, according to the European Union's (EU) statistics office, Eurostat, retail sales lost 0.2% in September from August's level. The broader EU, on the other hand, saw a gain of 0.1%.
Economists had predicted in a Reuters poll that sales would be down only 0.1% in September, but the data is not firm. Eurostat has already revised the August numbers up to a 0.2% gain from what was originally a 0.1% contraction.
The eurozone's overall output is expected to shrink by at least 0.3% for 2012, held down by steady pressure on households, which in turn cut their spending further.
Diesel and gasoline were not the only sales that were down. Clothing, electrical goods and other items, including such sectors as medical products, lost 0.6% in September. Food, drinks and tobacco, on the other hand, showed a gain of 0.8% in the eurozone while only rising 0.5% in the broader EU.