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European car sales post largest gain in 5 years, surging 15 percent in June

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MILAN — European auto sales surged 15 percent in June, the biggest month-on-month increase in more than five years, the European carmakers' association reported Thursday. Still, analysts remained cautious amid economic uncertainty caused by the Greek financial crisis.

The region posted its 22nd month of growth with sales of 1.36 million units, boosting half-year sales by 8 percent to 7.1 million, ACEA said.

IHS Automotive analyst Carlos da Silva said the stronger-than-expected growth was due to two extra calendar days of sales in June compared with May, as well as the impact of end-of-quarter accounting, when many automakers offer incentives to reach targets. He noted strong response from individual buyers in Germany and France, where sales rose 13 percent and 15 percent respectively.

Despite the acceleration in registrations, IHS remained cautious for the year, forecasting growth of just 4 percent to 13.1 million units.

"The market's recovery is still fragile, even more so as a result of the ongoing turmoil in Greece," da Silva said, noting also that private demand is "close to saturation point."

All major markets posted double-digit gains, according to ACEA. Beyond France and Germany, ACEA said registrations were up 23 percent in Spain, 14 percent in Italy and 13 percent in Britain.

The major mass-market carmakers showed double-digit sales gains, except France's Renault with just a 4.5 percent increase. There were no major shifts in market share.

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