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Retail sales climb in first 2 months

CHINA'S retail sales climbed 15.2 percent in the first two months of this year, a slightly slower growth than late last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday as consumers began to hold back on their spending amid the financial crisis.

The bureau said on its Website that January-February retail sales totaled 2 trillion yuan (US$292 billion), up 15.2 percent from a year earlier but down from 17.4 percent in December.

Urban spending rose 14.4 percent to 1.35 trillion yuan and rural spending rose 17 percent to 653.9 billion yuan, the bureau said.

"Consumer demand is showing greater fatigue as retail sales growth during the holidays was weaker than previous years," said Ken Peng, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets. "But real retail growth could still remain above 10 percent this year, providing a source of stability for the broader economy."

The bureau didn't offer separate data for each of the two months to avoid distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in February last year and in late January this year.

Chinese consumers are getting jittery about household finances and job security amid a global recession. Sixty percent of consumers have already curtailed their personal spending or plan to tighten their purse strings this year, a recent survey by DDMA Market Research & Consulting showed.

The government has announced a 4-trillion-yuan package to spur domestic demand to try and contain the fallout from the economic downturn. It also pledged to implement an even more aggressive employment policy this year and allocate 42 billion yuan to offset unemployment.

The global financial crisis has caused about 40 percent of firms in 15 major Chinese cities to cut jobs by an average 5 percent, or a total of 3 million jobs nationwide.


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