Chinese New Year retail sales jump 15% as consumers splurge

BEIJING (AFP) - China on Saturday said retail sales jumped nearly 15 per cent year-on-year during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, as consumers splurged on jewellery, clothes and food.

Chinese New Year marks the biggest festival of the year in China, as hundreds of millions of people journey across the country to celebrate the season with their families and consumer spending typically soars during the period.

China's commerce ministry said sales during the holiday period, which ran from February 9 to 15, rose 14.7 per cent compared with last year to 539 billion yuan (S$106.9 billion).

The pace of growth, however, did not match up to last year, when sales increased 16.2 per cent compared to 2011.

This year's sales of jewellery, food and beverages rose 38.1 per cent, 9.8 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively, while sales of clothes increased 6.3 per cent, the commerce ministry said.

"Across the country, products were abundant, supplies were sufficient and sales lively," the ministry said.

The results come as China's economy has been showing renewed vigour, with growth accelerating in the final three months of last year to 7.9 per cent, snapping seven straight quarters of weakening expansion.

In January, China's trade surplus gained 7.7 per cent year-on-year to US$29.2 billion, (S$36.1 billion), according to official data, beating analyst expectations. Inflation last month, meanwhile, slowed to 2 per cent from 2.5 per cent in December.

The world's second-largest economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years last year, expanding 7.8 per cent in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.

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