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Analysts expect strong NPD results for March

US retail sales predicted to rise year-on-year with hopes for sustained long-term growth

Analysts looking ahead to the US retail sales numbers for March - set to be released later today - are expecting some happier news than the industry has seen for some time with the prediction of a return to year-on-year growth.

Cowen analyst Doug Creutz was the most buoyant with his predictions, looking to a 9 per cent jump in total software sales over March 2009 and expecting to see Bad Company 2, Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III all shipping over 1 million units each.

Meanwhile Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter outlined software growth of 6 per cent to a total of $840 million, noting that while Wii console sales would be down 10 per cent at 540,000 units sold, he expected to see Xbox 360 units up 37 per cent and PlayStation 3 units up 98 per cent to 450,000 and 430,000 respectively.

Finally Lazard Capital's Colin Sebastian was more reserved, indicating software sales growth of between 0-5 per cent, restricted somewhat by supply issues - particularly hindering God of War III and Final Fantasy XIII.

Both Pachter and Creutz agreed that in the medium term - because of 2009's poor numbers and a more balanced upcoming release slate - year-on-year comparisons would be easier from now on, although Creutz did issue a note of caution for April.

"We expect NPD sales to decline year-on-year in April due to a weaker release slate and the reversal of the Easter comp," he wrote. "However, we expect very strong double-digit industry growth in May and June due to a potent title line-up and increasingly easier comps, setting the stage for continued software growth for the balance of the year.

"We believe this will serve as a catalyst to continue the rally in videogame publisher stocks, which we believe began in January and remains in its early innings."

NPD results for March will be released later today.

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