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Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 04:03 GMT Sep 14/00:03 EST Sep 14
     BEIJING (MNI) - Retail sales in China saw lower-than-expected growth in
August as sales in major sectors with the largest retail volumes all slowed
compared with July, according to data released by the National Bureau of
Statistics on Thursday.
     Retail sales grew 10.1% to CNY3.033 trillion in August on a yearly basis,
the slowest growth rate since 9.5% growth in the January-February period, and
the lowest single-month increase since last October, when it was also 10.1%.
January and February months are combined for statistical purposes because of the
Chinese New Year holiday, which fell this year in late January. 
     August retail sales also came in 0.4 percentage points lower than the 10.5%
median growth forecast of the 19 financial institutions that comprise the MNI
survey.
     For the January to August period, retail sales rose 10.4% to CNY23.2308
trillion compared with the same period last year, which was flat with the 10.4%
gain in the January to July period.
     The August deceleration was mainly due to slowing sales in three major
retail sectors. Vehicle sales grew at 7.9% in August to CNY353.3 billion, lower
than the 8.1% rise in July. Catering revenue grew 10.7% to CNY336 billion in
August, 0.4 percentage points lower than the 11.1% growth in July. Oil and
related product sales climbed 4.5% to CNY165.6 billion, compared with 5.6%
growth in July.
     Retail sales from January to August were also negatively affected by growth
slowdowns in the the catering and oil and related products categories. Catering
sales slowed 0.1 percentage points to 11.1% compared with the January to July
period, and oil and related products slowed 0.7 percentage point to 9.1%.
     The decelerations of retail sales both on a y/y and year-to-date basis came
despite consumers largely upgrading their sporting and entertainment equipment
as well as mobile phones and other telecommunications devices, NBS spokeswoman
Liu Aihua said at a press conference Thursday. She said sports and entertainment
equipment experienced a strong sales growth of 14.9%, while telecommunication
product sales also edged up 12.2%.
     In contrast to the deceleration of overall retail sales, online retail
sales continued to see robust growth, spotting year-to-date growth of 34.3%. It
was the highest year-to-date reading so far this year, and 0.6 percentage point
higher than the 33.7% growth in the January-July period, and much stronger than
the 26.2% average growth in the online sector last year. 
     Deng Haiqing, the chief economist at Jiuzhou Securities, said in a note
Thursday that the low growth rate of retail sales in August was mainly due to a
slowdown in food-related categories. He warned that this could mean a structural
problem in China's consumption habits. 
--MNI Beijing Bureau; +86 (10) 8532-5998; email: iris.ouyang@marketnews.com
--MNI Beijing Bureau; +86 (10) 8532-5998; email: vince.morkri@marketnews.com