Hong Kong’s retail sales climbed unexpectedly in February, preliminary figures from the Census and Statistics Department showed Tuesday.

The retail sales value surged 14.9 percent year-over-year in February, in contrast to a revised 14.5 percent decline in the previous month. Economists had expected a 4.5 percent decrease for the month.

In volume terms, retail sales jumped 18.2 percent annually in February, much faster than economists’ expectations for a 2.4 percent increase. In January, sales had dropped a revised 13.8 percent.

The value of sales of commodities in supermarkets advanced by 3.7 percent and sales of medicines and cosmetics grew by 8.3 percent.

On seasonally adjusted basis, the value of retail sales fell 1.6 percent in the three months ended February and the volume of retail sales also went down by 1.1 percent.

Considering the first two months of the year to avoid the distortions in the timing of Lunar new year, retail sales were nearly flat in volume terms compared to the same period last year, a government spokesman pointed out. The subdued outcome was largely caused by the sharp fall in the sales of jewelery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts , he said.

“Looking ahead, the near-term performance of retail sales is still subject to uncertainties, depending on the labor market status and inbound tourism growth. Besides, we also need to closely monitor how various uncertainties in the external environment may affect local consumption sentiment going forward,” the spokesman added.

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