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Retail Sales Go Up 8.5% in the First Two Months of 2002

China's retail sales of consumer goods grew 8.5 percent year-on-year to 692.1 billion yuan (US$ 83.4 billion) during the first two months of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

Retail sales in January grew a year-on-year 7.9 percent, while sales in February - when Spring Festival fell this year - rose a year-on-year 9.1 percent, the bureau said.

The bureau added that retail sales in urban areas rose 9.3 percent in the first two months to 435.9 billion yuan (US$52.5 billion), while sales in counties and areas at lower administrative levels grew 7 percent to 256.1 billion yuan (US$ 30.8 billion).

Economist Hu Shaowei of the State Information Center said the growth rate of retail sales was somewhat lower than what he had expected, mainly because people have been waiting for further price cuts in the wake of China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

But Hu said that the macroeconomic environment this year will be favorable for the further development of the country's consumer-goods market.

The central government has already announced that it will continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy and a steady monetary policy in 2002.

Premier Zhu Rongji last week announced that China would issue 150 billion yuan (US$ 18 billion) in treasury bonds this year.

Hu said: "This will provide an improved environment for the further growth of the consumer-goods market."

The measures taken last year to raise the salary of government employees, provide compensation for laid-off workers and increase pensions for retirees will also help improve people's income levels, which will help stimulate consumption, he said.

Zhang Xueying, another economist at the center, said that sales of housing and cars have performed relatively well.

More individuals have begun to buy homes of their own because of the country's housing reform.

The accelerated pace of housing privatization has also given rise to the consumption of related products such as furniture and home appliances, Zhang said.

More people have also begun to buy their own cars since prices started dropping after China joined the WTO, he said.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics suggest that the retail sales of cars grew a year-on-year 21.1 percent during the first two months of this year.

Hu said China's retail sales will rise by about 10 percent in 2002.

( China Daily March 15, 2002)

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