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Retail sales in China declined for a third straight month in May as lockdowns under President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid strategy dampened growth in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Retail sales fell 6.7 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, according to official figures, but still beat the 7.1 per cent drop that had been forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

That marked a slight improvement on April’s reading, when authorities rolled out harsh lockdowns in Shanghai and sales declined 11.1 per cent. Sales were also broadly flat compared to April.

But China’s industrial production, which measures output from the country’s mines, factories and utilities sector, bounced in May, gaining 0.7 per cent compared to the same period a year ago. Analysts had predicted a decline by the same margin.

The National Bureau of Statistics said that the rebound in industrial production was buoyed by growth in the production of new-energy vehicles and solar cells, which rose by 108.3 per cent and 31.4 per cent year on year, respectively. Retail sales, meanwhile, were dragged down by a 21.1 per cent decline in spending on catering.

The figures underline how China has struggled to motivate its consumers to continue spending in the face of strict lockdowns, which have left some unable to go to work or visit shops or restaurants.

Other official figures released on Wednesday showed that sales of residential properties in the country were 41.7 per cent lower by value than during the same period a year ago.

The country’s property developers were already struggling to contain a rippling liquidity crisis before the imposition of strict lockdowns across the country’s most important cities in April and May.

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