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Consumption surges, economy powers ahead
( 2003-11-17 15:13) (Agencies)

China's October retail sales rose at their fastest pace in two years as the week-long National Day holiday gave consumers their first chance to flex their spending muscles.

Chinese consumers hit the supermarket in Beijing. [newsphoto.com.cn]

Retail sales jumped 10.2 percent in October compared with the year-earlier month, the National Bureau of Statistical said on Monday.

It was the biggest rise since October 2001 when sales climbed 10.5 percent.

"This year's long October 1 holiday was the first 'Golden Week' since SARS was defeated," the bureau said in a statement.

"The commercial, transportation, tourism and related sectors created a good environment for resting and shopping."

China has come to rely on its three Golden Week national holidays to boost the economy by encouraging people to travel and spend.

But the last holiday, the May 1 Labor Day break, was shortened due to the SARS outbreak, which badly hit retail sales as people stayed at home and avoided travel and shopping.

Hot retail items in October included mobile telephones, cars and furniture.

Sales of "telecommunications equipment" skyrocketed nearly 75 percent in October from a year earlier, the bureau said.

Car sales jumped more than 48 percent from a year earlier while furniture was up more than 40 percent and home appliances and audio-video gear rose 21.5 percent.

Despite growth numbers that would be phenomenal in a country like the United States or Japan, China's retail sales are seen as a weak spot in an economy being stoked by even stronger factory output, exports and investment.

Industrial output rose 17.2 percent in October from a year earlier while exports climbed nearly 37 percent, earlier data showed.

In the first nine months of this year the economy was up an annual 8.5 percent.

Retail sales rose 8.8 percent in 2002, when the overall economy grew 8 percent.

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