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Consumer confidence rises: survey

By Hu Yuanyuan (China Daily)

07:12, January 31, 2013

Consumer confidence in China rebounded in the fourth quarter as economic growth picked up amid low inflation, according to a Nielsen survey released on Wednesday.

The quarterly consumer confidence index rose by 2 percentage points to 108 in the last quarter — 17 points ahead of the global average, the survey showed. The index dropped to 105 in the second quarter in 2012, from 110 in the first quarter, before stabilizing at 106 in the third quarter.

Personal financial expectations grew, as did consumer optimism over employment.

Consumer confidence has been given a boost, said Yan Xuan, greater China chief for the New York-based market information provider.

"The rise of the confidence index is a positive signal pointing to a rosy economic picture for 2013."

Standard Chartered upgraded its forecast for GDP growth for 2013 on Tuesday to 8.3 percent and for 2014 to 8.2 percent, from 7.8 percent for both years.

"Credit, housing and manufacturing cycles have all improved," said Stephen Green, an economist with the bank.

Measured against a quarterly basis in 2012, rural areas posted the most optimistic readings during the fourth quarter, reaching 114 points. The index in second-tier cities rebounded after softening in the previous two quarters, unlike first-tier cities.

"Expectations regarding personal finance suffered the biggest decline, down 13 points, among consumers in first-tier cities during the fourth quarter," Yan said, adding that fluctuations in the stock market drove down confidence.

Employment in second-tier cities was up 11 percent from the previous quarter.

In 2012, consumers were most concerned about income and health, followed by education, social welfare and food prices.

Job security was also a factor as were career concerns.

The survey also revealed consumer concern over prices.

The consumer price index grew from 2 percent year-on-year in November to 2.5 percent in December.

Looking forward, analysts at Nielsen believe consumer confidence may increase in 2013 due to the economy and robust consumption.

For Dale Preston, senior vice-president of Nielsen, urbanization will be the driving force behind economic growth. "Urbanization will increase domestic consumption by 900 billion yuan ($143 billion), new investments by 6.5 trillion yuan and GDP by 2.6 percent. This will account for 37.5 percent of GDP growth by 2020," said Preston.

That rosy picture is attracting international investors. Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), through its Chinese partner Beijing Capital Land, just acquired a land parcel for a commercial complex in Beijing's Lize financial district, with a gross floor area of 500,000 square meters.

Blackstone Group LP, one of the world's largest private equity firms, just purchased a sizeable parcel of land in Nantong, Jiangsu province.

The investment, made through a real estate fund owned by Blackstone, was in cooperation with China Resources Land Ltd.

The investment, worth more than 3 billion yuan, involves 600,000 sq m of land.

John Zhao, CEO of Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, said any investment related to urbanization and boosting consumption will offer lucrative opportunities for private equity firms.

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