Hong Kong Retail Sales Wilt as China Tourists Keep Wallets Shut

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s retail sales missed estimates in December, as a slowing mainland economy dampened consumer sentiment and the surge in cross-border tourists failed to translate into a spending bump.

The city’s retail sales by value expanded 0.1 percent last month from a year earlier, compared with the median estimate of 1.4 percent among six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and the prior 1.4 percent reading in November. Sales volume growth of 0.2 percent compared with median estimates of 2.5 percent, after posting a 1.2 percent increase the prior month.

The latest figures come amid a surge in mainland tourism into Hong Kong thanks to the completion of new transport links including a high-speed rail connection with Shenzhen and a bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta.

There were more than 4.6 million visitor arrivals into the city from China in November, a 26 percent increase from year-ago levels and near the highest since 2014, according to data from the Hong Kong Tourism board. Analysts are nonetheless cutting their price targets for stocks in seven of the city’s major retailers, as the day-tripper surge isn’t bringing the same kind of spending to the city that mainland visitors traditionally have done.

“Momentum has been weakening over the past few months as the setback in the stock and property markets are taking a toll on sentiment,” said Tommy Wu, an economist with Oxford Economics in Hong Kong. “The influx of mainland visitors as a result of the new transport links should have been cushioning the decline in retail sales growth, but the impact was not enough to offset the decline in domestic demand.”

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