Retail, wholesale industries slide to five-year low

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Retail, wholesale industries slide to five-year low

The growth of Korea’s wholesale and retail industries slowed to its lowest level in five years last year amid sluggish demand at home, according to data released by the central bank Tuesday.

The output by the wholesale and retail industries, including accommodation and restaurant businesses, grew 1.1 percent in 2019 from a year earlier, the slowest rate since 2014, when these sectors posted a 1.0 percent on-year expansion, according to the data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The reading is also far lower than the estimated 2.0 percent on-year expansion for Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Such slow growth for the locally focused industries may have been expected as the country’s private consumption grew only 1.9 percent from a year earlier last year, slowing from a 2.8 percent expansion in 2018.

With growth slowing, debt owed by the related industries is apparently on the rise.

In the third quarter of 2019, fresh loans extended by non-bank lenders to wholesale, accommodation and restaurant businesses came to 4.3 trillion won, up 31.7 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to earlier data from the central bank.

The BOK has forecast improved conditions for local spending this year, estimating consumer prices will rise at around 1 percent compared with the 0.4 percent on-year gain in 2019, a record low.

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