Clamp Down on Official Spendings Hurting Chinese Retail Sales

Retail sales in China during the week-long Lunar New Year festival rose at the slowest pace in four years as a crackdown on extravagant spending by officials and state-owned companies limited outlays on food and drink.
Enlarge image Xi’s Frugality Drive Damps China’s New Year Retail Sales Growth

Sales at shops and restaurants monitored by the Ministry of Commerce increased 14.7 percent in the Feb. 9 to Feb. 15 period from the year-earlier break to 539 billion yuan ($86 billion), the ministry said. That was down from a 16.2 percent pace in 2012 and the least since a 13.8 percent gain in 2009, according to previously released figures.

The New Year holiday, comparable to the peak Christmas shopping rush in the U.S., is a period when consumers in the world’s second-biggest economy splurge on food, jewelry and gifts, and government officials are wined and dined. Sales may have been damped by a campaign started by Xi Jinping, the new head of the Communist Party, to rein in lavish spending while rising incomes prompt more Chinese to travel overseas.

“The slower growth, manifested in the restaurant business, was partly a result of the government crackdown on corruption and the anti-waste campaign,” Leon Zhao, a Shanghai-based analyst at researcher Frost & Sullivan, said in a telephone interview. “We expect overall retail sales and consumption to rise again along with the improving economy in the second and third quarters.”


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