China retail sales jump 20 percent

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Mar. 13 – Domestic retail sales leaped 20.2 percent to US$245.5 billion in the first two months of 2008, boosted by Chinese New Years sales and rising food prices, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

The figure was 5.5 percentage points higher than the same period last year. Food prices have risen steeply for more than a year, fueling inflation fears and prompting the government to prioritize the fight against inflation as its top concern.

Food costs surged 23.3 percent in February, while non-food prices edged up only 1.6 percent from a year earlier the NBS report stated.

Urban consumption hit RMB1.18 trillion, up 20.8 percent year-on-year, compared with RMB559.1 billion spent by rural residents, up 18.9 percent.

Wholesale and retail sales rose 20 percent to RMB1.46 trillion, while catering and hotel activity rose 23.1 percent to RMB253.6billion.

Clothing sales rose 24 percent, while daily consumer goods were up 21.1 percent and household appliances were up 18.8 percent. Grain and edible oil jumped 41.2 percent year-on-year.

Retail sales went up 16.8 percent to RMB8.92 trillion in 2007.The increase was 3.1 percentage points over 2006, the NBS said.

The consumer price index hit a nearly 12-year high of 8.7 percent in February, making it more difficulty for China to keep the full-year rate to the government target of 4.8 percent.