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New year spending soars in China
Updated: 2006-02-06 16:15

Chinese consumers spent some 190 billion yuan (US$23.5 billion) during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, up 15.5 percent over the same period last year, the government announced.

Food made up some 25 percent of the retail sales in consumer items during the holiday that began on January 29 and officially ended Saturday, according to a survey made by the Ministry of Commerce.

New year spending soars in China
Customers browse at a stall selling fireworks in Beijing January 25, 2006. Beijing has lifted a 12-year ban on fireworks for the Lunar New Year celebrations during the Spring Festival. The city has issued 2,116 permits to sell firecrackers starting on Sunday, according to local media. [Reuters]

While consumer spending in Chinese cities rose dramatically, rural regions also witnessed brisk consumption as armies of migrant workers left their jobs in urban areas to return to festivities in local towns and villages, the survey, posted on the ministry website said.

With banquets and feasting a traditional part of the holiday, more and more Chinese opted to dine outside the home as restaurant dining across the nation was up by 25 percent over the same period last year, it said.

While sales of tobacco, spirits and fruits were brisk, consumers also spent more on household electronics and health and sports items, it added.

In China's southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, the sales of digital electronics and flat screen televisions were up by some 40 percent over last year's holiday, while overall sales in household electronics were up by 61 percent, the ministry said.

Health clubs also did a brisk business, while in northern China consumers flocked to ski areas to try out the winter sport that is increasing in popularity as living standards rise following 20 years of explosive economic growth, the ministry said.

Sales of fireworks were also booming as a 12-year old ban on the pyrotechnics were lifted this year in several large cities, including Beijing and Chongqing.

Despite the big rise in consumer spending, overall prices remained stable throughout the week, although pork prices were up by 5.0 percent from a week earlier and vegetable prices rose by 2.1 percent, it said.

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