MAR. 2 6:18 A.M. ET
Retail sales in Hong Kong grew by 11.6 percent in January from a year ago on the back of brisk spending during Lunar New Year, the government said Thursday.
The territory recorded total retail sales of HK$21.20 billion (US$2.73 billion; euro2.29 billion), the Census and Statistics Department said in a statement. Retail sales grew by 6.9 percent in December. The robust growth was partly caused by the different timing of the Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in January this year but in February last year, the statement said.
"Consumer sentiment has remained upbeat in recent period," the statement said. Optimism for the economy, higher salaries, and continued expansion of inbound tourism were expected to continue to boost retail sales, it said.
Economists agreed that a falling jobless rate, now at 5.2 percent, and higher wages will continue to boost local consumer confidence.
"An improving job market and better job security will underpin the rising trend of retail sales this year," said Daniel Chan, a strategist at DBS Bank.
Economists are also optimistic about the continued inflow of leisure and business visitors.
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, tourist arrivals in January was 15.6 percent more that the same period a year ago.
"The arrival gains weren't only coming from China, markets such as the Australia and the Asian countries also showed robust gains," said Chan, adding that such broad-based tourist arrival gains bode well for further growth in tourist spending this year. Hong Kong Disneyland
, which opened last September, will continue to be an important attraction for mainland and Asian visitors, economists said.