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Holiday consumption boosts expansion hopes

Updated: Oct 9, 2021 By CHEN JIA and JIANG XUEQING CHINA DAILY Print
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Customers purchase bags at a duty-free shop in Haikou, Hainan province, on Oct 1, 2021. [Photo/IC]

Chinese consumers' spending boomed during the seven-day National Day holiday in the first week of this month, driven by huge demand for catering services and entertainment businesses, adding positive signs to the recent economic growth momentum, according to data from nationwide payment platforms.

In the "Golden Week", NetsUnion Clearing Corp, China's national online payment clearinghouse, which operates under the supervision of the central bank, reported an increase in the number of online payments compared with the same period of last year.

During the holiday, NetsUnion recorded total transactions of 7.6 trillion yuan ($1.18 trillion), and the average daily payment was up by 20 percent year-on-year. And the peak was reached on Oct 1, with a daily payment volume of 1.23 trillion yuan, data disclosed by the platform on Friday showed.

Data indicated that consumption in catering services rose fast, and the average daily online transactions in this sector increased by 46.57 percent from a year earlier, NetsUnion reported.

Besides, Chinese consumers' online spending on movies and theme park trips during the week increased by more than 60 percent year-on-year, according to the NetsUnion.

China UnionPay, the nation's largest bank card processor, also reported a rise in consumption payments during the holiday. From Oct 1 to Oct 6, total transactions through Union-Pay's platform reached 2.31 trillion yuan, and the average daily transaction number was up by 32 percent compared with a year earlier.

Economists expected retail sales growth to rise slightly from September to October, as the recent wave of COVID-19 infections in the country has been controlled.

Dominik Peschel, head of the economics unit of the Asian Development Bank Resident Mission in China, said: "We would expect household demand to recover further gradually, and this should also help the services sector. We would also see some pent-up demand because it has been difficult to travel and it has been difficult to have vacation for some period (of time).

"We think that people will travel more and demand more services once the COVID-19 situation is fully under control and the restrictions have been lifted."

Economists with Bank of China said China's consumption still faces uncertainties caused by repeat cases of COVID-19 and is restricted by household income in the fourth quarter, but they also see favorable factors stimulating consumption recovery.

"As the country keeps strengthening its capability in controlling the pandemic in a scientific way and keeps increasing its COVID-19 vaccination rate, we are unlikely to see another COVID-19 outbreak that will affect consumption and entertainment nationwide. This is helpful for the recovery of several types of consumption, including tourism, lodging, catering, movies and exhibitions," said BOC economists.

Backed by favorable policies, small and micro enterprises will hopefully maintain a positive momentum of recovery, which will help sustain a gradual recovery of employment and household income, the economists said.

They expected that China's consumption will grow by around 12.5 percent year-on-year in 2021, and the two-year average consumption growth will reach about 3.5 percent.

Some indicators of consumer spending, however, showed slower recovery. For instance, during the National Day "Golden Week", national domestic visits and tourism revenues were 29.9 percent and 40.1 percent below pre-pandemic levels, respectively, said a research note of Nomura Securities.

Lu Ting, Nomura's chief economist in China, said he expected Beijing to ramp up monetary and fiscal supports to stabilize economic growth in the coming weeks.

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