May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s retail sales rose a more-than-forecast 26 percent in March from a year earlier on reduced unemployment and increased tourist numbers.
Sales climbed to HK$31.2 billion ($4 billion) after a revised 8.5 percent gain in February, the government said today on its website. That was more than the median 18.5 percent estimate of eight economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
Unemployment fell to the lowest level since the global financial crisis in the first quarter. Visitor arrivals from China increased 23 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
“Consumers are happy to spend their paychecks due to better job prospects,” Joanne Yim, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank Ltd. in Hong Kong, said before today’s data. “The strong inflows of tourists also helped prop up the retail business.”
Hong Kong will give a handout of HK$6,000 to each permanent resident, Financial Secretary John Tsang said last month. The money will encourage retail spending and benefit companies including Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Lifestyle International Holdings Ltd., CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets said in March.
By volume, retail sales grew 20 percent in March from a year earlier, the government said.
-- With assistance from Michael Munoz and Marco Lui in Hong Kong. Editors: Nerys Avery, Sunil Jagtiani.
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