Euro zone retail sales fell as expected in December as non-food sales and online purchases in particular declined, dragged down by the steepest decline in shopping in Germany in 11 years. 

The European Union's statistics office, Eurostat, said that euro zone retail sales were down 1.6% month-on-month in December, in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of economists. 

Year-on-year, retail trade rose by 0.8%. 

The monthly decline, which wiped out the 0.8 percent gains of October and November, reinforces the sense of an economy slowing at the close of the year. 

Eurostat reported last week that the euro zone economy rose by just 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2018, matching the four year low of the third quarter. 

Economic sentiment in the zone also fell to a two-year low in January, with the steepest decline among retail managers. 

In today's data, non-food sales fell by 2.7% from November, with declines of 2.1% for electrical goods and furniture, 2.9% for textiles and clothing and 6.1% for mail order and internet sales. 

The steepest fall by far was in Germany, where retail sales declined by 4.3% month-on-month. 

Germany's statistics office has said the drop was compared to a very strong November, boosted by pre-Christmas shopping and discount days such as Black Friday. 

In France, the euro zone's second biggest economy, retail sales fell by just 0.1%. In Austria, Ireland and Portugal, retail sales rose.