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Hong Kong retail sales rise 10.5 per cent in May

Hong Kong retail sales rose 10.5 per cent in May from a year earlier, the fourth consecutive monthly gain, boosted by an easing Covid-19 threat. But the growth lagged pre-pandemic levels as inbound tourism is at a halt and global travel restrictions linger.

Sales climbed to HK$29.6 billion (US$3.81 billion), government data showed on Wednesday. That compares with a 12.1 pr cent rise in April, a 20.21 per cent rise in March and 30 per cent growth in February.

“The near-term operating environment of the retail sector will remain challenging given the lack of visitor spending,” a government spokesman said.

In volume terms, retail sales in May jumped 7.8 per cent year-on-year, compared with a revised 11-per-cent surge the previous month.

Online retail sales in May soared 53.1 per cent in value year-on-year, compared to revised 26.9-per-cent growth in April and a 44-per-cent rise in March.

Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts, which depend heavily on mainland tourists, surged 54.8 per cent in May versus a revised 93.9 per-cent rise in April, the data showed.

Clothing, footwear and allied products rose 12.1 per cent in May, compared to a revised 61.2 per cent in April.

Tourist arrivals fell 34.8 per cent year-on-year in May to 5305, after posting a 38.3-per-cent jump in April in the city’s first growth in arrivals after 21 consecutive months of declines.

Hong Kong’s seasonally adjusted unemployment was 6 per cent in the March-May period, against 6.4 per cent in February-April, as the labour market was boosted by economic recovery and as the novel coronavirus outbreak receded.

The government saw some sectors to take longer to return to pre-pandemic levels because of an uneven pace of recovery.

The city’s economy grew by a revised 7.9 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, snapping six consecutive quarters of annual contractions. Official forecasts are for the economy to grow between 3.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent in 2021, after a 6.1-per-cent contraction last year.

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