China’s consumer spending picks up in October

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s retail sales continued a general recovery in October, official data showed yesterday, on the back of a national holiday and policies aimed at boosting spending.

Although China has largely brought the coronavirus under control, spending has been slower to recover as the world still grapples with the impact of the pandemic.

Retail sales in the world’s second-largest economy rose 4.3 per cent on-year last month, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said yesterday.

At a press briefing, spokesman Fu Linghui said the pandemic “has dealt a second blow to countries” including the United States (US) and those in Europe, and that global recovery had “further stalled” as a result.

“The domestic economy is still in recovery, with multiple challenges to be conquered before a full recovery,” Fu added.

While the retail figure is lower than the five per cent growth expected by analysts polled by Bloomberg, it still continued an upward trend as spenders gradually began to open their wallets again, particularly around the week-long national holiday in October.

Employees work at a lithium battery manufacturing company workshop in Huaibei, eastern China’s Anhui province. PHOTO: AFP

Catering sector revenue growth turned positive for the first time this year, the NBS said.

Research firm Oxford Economics said China’s recovery is on a “reasonably firm footing and will continue in the fourth quarter”. Industrial production growth in October remained the same as the month before, but continued to rise more than expected at 6.9 per cent.

A strong rebound in exports could have helped industrial output, said Apac Chief Economist Rajiv Biswas at IHS Markit, adding that there was also potential for a pre-Christmas boost.

Meanwhile, the urban unemployment rate – a key concern with a large number of graduates entering the market this year after the pandemic hit – fell to 5.3 per cent in October.

The NBS added that over 10 million new urban jobs have been created this year, meeting China’s annual target ahead of schedule, although analysts have cautioned the real unemployment figure could be higher. But Nomura’s Chief China economist Lu Ting warned yesterday that headwinds remain, with the possibility of some social virus restrictions extending into spring 2021 and earlier pent-up demand losing steam.

“Rising US-China tensions could dent China’s exports and manufacturing investment,” he added.

At a forum last week, China’s ex-finance minister Lou Jiwei suggested trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies could continue even under the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.