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HK economy stalls amid trade dispute: Finance chief

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HONG KONG Hong Kong's economy stalled last year as the ongoing China-US trade dispute and retail woes dragged down local businesses, the city's financial chief said yesterday.

Beijing and Washington have already imposed duties on more than US$360 billion (S$490 billion) in two-way trade, roiling global financial markets and weighing heavily on manufacturing output in both countries.

"The impact of China-US trade frictions on Hong Kong's exports has clearly emerged at the end of last year," said Finance Secretary Paul Chan.

Economic growth in Hong Kong for the last quarter of last year was less than 1.5 per cent - the weakest since the first quarter of 2016 and a "significant slowdown" from the average growth rate of 3.7 per cent in the first three quarters, Mr Chan wrote on his official blog.

The slowdown brought last year's growth rate to an estimated 3 per cent, down from the higher-than-forecast 3.8 per cent recorded in 2017, he added.

"It was almost 'zero-growth' for commodities exports in the fourth quarter, which was a sharp drop compared to the average 6 per cent growth in the first three quarters," he wrote.

Mr Chan said retail sales rose only 2.1 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter, a far cry from the more than 12 per cent increase in the first half of the year. - AFP