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Buying Gold "Popular" But at Lower Weights as Chinese New Year Spending Slows

"Anti-graft" drive sees slowest growth in total New Year retail sales since 2004...
 
BUYING GOLD and silver jewelry has proven "popular" with Chinese shoppers celebrating the new Year of the Horse, according to retailers and local media.
 
But Beijing's drive to deter high spending by government officials after a series of corruption and luxury lifestyle scandals has dented overall spending at Chinese New Year, easing total growth to the slowest in a decade, data say.
 
Now the world's No.1 gold buying nation, China's households spent CNY 96 billion ($15bn) on jewelry and bullion products between January and March 2013, according to data from global market-development group, the World Gold Council.
 
This year, people buying gold at Caishikou, a leading jewelry retailer, spent CNY 250 million ($41m) in the first two days alone of the Chinese New Year, says Reuters, quoting data from the chain's website.
 
The holidays began on Lunar New Year's Eve, 31st January.
 
Jewelry with a horse theme proved "popular among consumers" buying gold and silver, says the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce, as did lower-weight bullion products.
 
"The popularity of smaller-sized gold ornaments is growing," said the People's Daily ahead of the New Year holidays, reporting a "sharp slowdown" in people buying gold bars in northeast China's Jilin province (population 27 million).
 
"Few people now buy gold bars that weigh above 10 grams," the government-owned newspaper quoted a gold retailing bank manager.
 
"Most choose gold ornaments weighing from five to 10 grams as holiday gifts for relatives and friends."
 
During the 7-day holidays to 6th February, China's overall retail spending totaled CNY 610 billion, said the Ministry of Commerce on Friday, the equivalent of $100 billion.
 
Quoting the data, the South China Morning Post says jewelry sales rose 30% and more from 2013 in central China's Hubei province (population 58 million), north-eastern Liaoning (43m), and mid-eastern Heilongjiang (38m).
 
But all told, growth in China's retail sales slowed to 13.3% from last year, the Ministry says, down from 2013's pace of 14.7% and the 16.2% of 2012.
 
"The number is relatively healthy, given the circumstances," the South China Morning Post quotes Moody's economist Alaistair Chan.
 
Chinese New Year "[was] set to be less noisy and consumerist than usual," the People's Daily said last week, "as concern over air pollution has combined with the authorities' ongoing frugality and anti-corruption drive to depress sales of fireworks and luxury gifts."
 
"The anti-graft campaign has made consumption cheaper and more affordable for Chinese households," reckons Barclays Capital economist Chang Jian.

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