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January surge for Hong Kong retail sales

Hong Kong retail sales surged 7.1 per cent in January – but the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) warns they could be affected by the timing of Lunar New Year.
“Retail sales tend to show greater volatility in the first two months of a year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year,” said a C&SD spokesman. “Local consumer spending normally attains a seasonal high before the festival. As the Lunar New Year fell on February 5 this year but on February 16 last year, the year-on-year comparison of the figures for January … might have been affected by this factor.”
After netting out the effect of price changes year on year, the volume of retail sales increased by 6.9 per cent.
However, for the three months to January, Hong Kong retail sales declined by 2 per cent compared with the preceding quarter, and by 2.1 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.
Revised estimates for December showed a growth of 0.1 per cent in both value and volume.
Sales of watches and jewellery rose by 4.7 per cent, while medicine and cosmetic sales rose 12.9 per cent and apparel by 2.4 per cent. Sales of goods in department stores surged 15.1 per cent, of food, liquor and tobacco by 13 per cent and of supermarket goods by 8.6 per cent.
Categories to show a decline in sales were electrical goods and other consumer durable items, but 11 per cent.
The C&SD spokesman said besides the LUnar New Year affect, retail sales were in part boosted by a surge in visitor arrivals in that month.
“Yet, given the distortion by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year, it would therefore be more meaningful to examine the retail sales figures for January and February combined, when available, to ascertain the underlying trend.”
The spokesman said the outlook for retail sales in the near term is still uncertain.
“While the full-employment situation in the local labour market and the sustained expansion in inbound tourism should provide support, consumption sentiment will still be affected by the unsteady external environment.”

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