Growth in China's retail sales, a key gauge of consumer spending, picked up speed in May as the country kept boosting domestic spending to stimulate economic growth, the government said in Beijing Friday.
Retail sales grew 15.2 percent in May year on year to 1.003 trillion yuan (about US$146.8 billion), according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The growth rate was 0.4 percentage points higher than the April level.
From January to May, retail sales stood at 4.88 trillion yuan, up 15 percent from a year earlier, according to the NBS.
Domestic consumption had become a powerful engine of China's growth as exports continued to weaken, said Zhuang Jian, a senior economist with the Asian Development Bank.
Exports slid in May, dropping 26.4 percent from the same period a year ago to US$88.758 billion, customs officials announced Thursday.
In real terms, consumption grew faster than 15.2 percent in May, since consumer prices fell 1.4 percent last month, he said.
He attributed the steady growth in consumption to government efforts to boost domestic spending, including cars and home appliances.
Rural consumption had grown at a faster pace than that of the cities, he said, noting that rural sales rose 15.6 percent to 318.8 billion yuan, which was 0.6 percentage points higher than the urban consumption growth rate, according to the NBS.
Zhang Liqun, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, a government think-tank, pointed out that the rapidly developing rural sales network had strongly supported rural spending.
China has sought to provide more local supermarkets and shops for the rural population, a vast but under-served market. There would be 510,000 rural shops by the end of 2010, the Ministry of Commerce said in April.
Urban consumption, even though it grew a little slower, has also been flourishing. As it accounted for a larger proportion of total consumption,its growth would ensure a sustainable uptrend in domestic spending, Zhang said.
The surge in consumption would play an important role in the country's battle against the economic slowdown and its effort to achieve 8-percent growth this year, said Zhuang Jian.
(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2009)