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Retail sales show signs of picking up
By Xu Dashan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-16 08:39

China's retail sales rose 10.5 per cent in the first two months of this year compared with a year ago, as consumers increased spending on larger items such as mobile phones and cars.

The country's retail sales stood at 878.1 billion yuan (US$105.8 billion) during those two months, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS ) announced in a statement yesterday.

Car sales were up 60 per cent in those two months compared with a year earlier, while petroleum sales jumped 41.2 per cent, the bureau said.

Sales of telecommunications equipment, a category that includes mobile phones, rose 61.3 per cent.

Cars, petroleum and telecoms gear account for just 6.5 per cent of total sales, but they contribute 23.4 per cent to sales growth.

"They are the driving forces behind market growth," the bureau said.

Zhu Jianfang, an economist at China Securities, said the higher retail growth figure in the two-month period suggests the country's retail sales market has begun to pick up gradually.

"This trend will continue in the coming months, as people's expectations for the future are still optimistic," he said.

A recent survey by the People's Bank of China suggests that 26.3 per cent of urban residents who own individual accounts in banks said they believe their income will grow this year, while only 8.5 per cent of them believe their income will be reduced.

More than 10 per cent of urban residents are planning to buy private cars in the second quarter, while 21.4 per cent of them plan to buy private homes.

Rural residents also have confidence in the future, as the central government has pledged to increase their income by implementing a variety of different measures, Zhu said.

The country's retail sales is likely to grow 11 per cent for this year, he said.

Qi Jingmei, a senior economist with the State Information Centre, agreed with Zhu, adding improvement in retail sales can only be gradual. "Consumption should play a bigger role in driving the country's economic growth," she said.

Last year, retail sales grew a year-on-year 9.1 per cent, while the country's gross domestic product also grew 9.1 per cent.

Commissioner Li Deshui of the National Bureau of Statistics said earlier that he was confident that the economy would grow by more than 7 per cent this year.

The micro base for the current economic development has been improving, as entrepreneurs and consumers have shown increased confidence for the future, he said.

The formation of the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and Bohai economic zone, the revival of the old industrial base in Northeast China, and the further development of the high-tech industry and service sector will all inject new enthusiasm into future economic development, he said.

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