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Hong Kong retail sales hit by China slowdown

11 july 2012

China’s slowdown dragged Hong Kong’s retail sales growth to the weakest pace since 2009 as shoppers visiting from the mainland cut back on purchases of luxury goods such as jewelry and watches, Bloomberg reported cited by Polished Prices.
Sales increased 8.8 percent in May from a year earlier to HK$36 billion ($4.6 billion), the government said last week. That was the smallest gain since September 2009, excluding seasonal distortions each January and February, the report said.
The deceleration of Asia’s biggest economy is rippling through Hong Kong, which had record retail-sales gains as recently as last year. In neighboring Macau, a center for Chinese gamblers, a report last week showed that casino revenue was below estimates in June, clouding the outlook for companies including Sands China Ltd.
“The consumption appetite of mainland visitors has dropped compared with last year because of the economic slowdown,” said Raymond Yeung, a Hong Kong-based economist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. The data are a “warning sign for Hong Kong retailers.”
The increase in retail sales compared with an 11.4 percent gain in April and the median 9.4 percent estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of seven economists.
China’s government is trying to limit official spending on some luxuries. A ban on consuming shark fin at government expense may take full effect within three years, according to state media reports this week, the Bloomberg report said.
In China, retail sales grew 13.8 percent in May, the smallest increase since 2006 excluding seasonal distortions and partly a reflection of waning inflation.
In Hong Kong, sales of jewelry, watches and clocks rose 3.1 percent in May from a year earlier, the government said. That compared with an increase of 61 percent in the same month in 2011, previously-released data show.
Caroline Mak, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, said retailers have been offering discounts of as much as 50 percent this summer and slow sales of goods such as furniture indicate weakness in local residents’ consumption, too. Sales growth may be “yet to hit bottom,” Mak said.
Hong Kong’s government has indicated that an economic growth forecast of 1 percent to 3 percent for this year may be cut as export demand weakens.
Mainland shoppers “are not splashing out as much,” Wong Wai Sheung, chief executive officer of Hong Kong-listed jewelry retailer Luk Fook Holdings (International) Ltd., said at a briefing on June 28. “I’m not too optimistic about the jewelry market this year.” Luk Fook’s shares have fallen about 38 percent this year, compared with a 7 percent gain for the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Tourists from the mainland have dropped their“exaggerated” spending habits, said Alan Chun, manager of the Gaily Jewellery Co. Ltd. store on Queens Road, Central.
“There aren’t big purchases anymore,” said Chun, referring to diamond and jade products that sell for between HK$100,000 and HK$1 million. “There are still regular ones - jewelry priced around HK$30,000 that people buy just for fun.”