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Making more and spending less

SHANGHAI consumers are spending less for the first time in a decade even as they are making more.

Per-capita consumption fell 3.1 percent to 5,004 yuan (US$733) in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, the Shanghai Statistics Bureau said yesterday on its Website.

The downturn signaled a cautious attitude among consumers as the financial crisis continues to rattle confidence.

"The spending decline was in line with the macroeconomic trend and the Consumer Price Index," said Xu Jin, an analyst at Shanghai Securities Co.

"We expect consumer confidence to recover in the third quarter, but the outbreak of swine flu has added uncertainty to the situation as it may greatly dampen spending on travel and food," Xu said.

The biggest drop came in spending on transport and travel.

Local residents spent 469 yuan per person on getting around, including buying cars and public transport, a 28.3 percent drop from a year earlier that contributed 3.6 percentage points to the overall decline, according to yesterday's bureau report.

Spending on tourism and travel dropped 7 percent to 217 yuan per capita, adding 0.3 percentage points to the decline, compared with 32 percent growth in 2008 and a 90 percent rise in 2007.

"My husband is in the advertising industry, and his salary shrank a lot as many companies cut spending on ads," said a local resident surnamed Le who works in marketing at a fashion company.

"I had planned to visit Australia or Britain this year, but now I have to delay the trip to early next year," she said. "Our plan to trade in our car for a new one will be delayed to the second half of this year."

Le used to spend about 2,000 yuan monthly on clothes but last month cut her apparel budget to 800 yuan.

Spending on food was among the categories that did rise, jumping 4.6 percent in the quarter to 1,884 yuan, compared with a 17.4 percent rise a year earlier, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, disposal income rose 6 percent to 8,113 yuan per capita in the first quarter, which was the slowest increase since 2002 and 6.6 percentage points lower than a year earlier.


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