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Signs of recovery in China’s hotpot, bubble tea, luxury sectors

Chinese residents wearing raincoats and enjoying hotpot as thousands of people gather at a hotpot festival in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality on Oct. 31, 2009.

STR | Afp | Getty Images

Signs of recovery may be emerging in China’s luxury and consumer discretionary goods sectors, said an analyst from Bank of America, even as China released data showing consumer inflation at an 18-month low.

“In terms of luxury high-end [consumption] — we’re seeing quite strong recovery,” said the bank’s chief China equity strategist Winnie Wu. “On the lower end, the bubble tea, the Shabu Shabu, those hotpots — we’re seeing good recovery.”

Chinese hotpot chain Haidilao recorded a nearly 80% jump in revenue for the year ended Dec. 31, 2022 compared to the year before.

China’s luxury market fell 10% in 2022, declining for the first time in five years, according to Bain & Company. However, the consultancy expects “growth will resume in 2023 after China recovers from the most-recent Covid-19 impacts.”

“We expect positive conditions to return before the end of the first quarter,” said the February report.

Wu, however, maintained that a good overall recovery across China’s consumer sector has yet to be seen.

“So far we’re seeing mixed signals. Retail sales is not good enough,” she said.

Retail sales in China aren't good enough, strategist says

China’s consumer price index for March rose 0.7% year-on-year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday. The reading fell short of Reuters’ expectations of a 1% increase, and continues to hover at the lowest levels since September 2021.

In a report following the release of China’s CPI data, Goldman Sachs said China’s headline CPI is expected to “accelerate modestly” in the coming months, boosted by an economic rebound.

However, the U.S. investment bank noted the reading should remain “well below the PBOC’s 3% target.”

Property sector a bright spot?

Wu expects to continue seeing “conflicting signals” for readings for China’s CPI from April to June. But one area that may give market watchers more confidence is the real estate sector where there’s “continued recovery in the primary home sales, the new home sales,” she told CNBC.

“If the property market can continue to show strong recovery, I think it might give people earlier indication that we are in a good year of general economic recovery,” she said.

However, while there is increasing sentiment that people in China want to purchase houses again, Wu pointed out that the property market rebound may not come as quickly as hoped.

“The large ticket item goods, the auto sales, the property sales — they will naturally come later because right after a lockdown, right after [recovering] from Covid, the first thing you’re buying is not the house.”

“So the property sector [rebound] naturally will come later, and I say: let’s give it more time.”



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