* Feb tourist arrivals rise 26.3 pct
* Near term retail sales outlook positive - govt
By Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu
HONG KONG, April 3 (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s retail sales in February grew at their strongest in eight years, in value terms, boosted by more Chinese tourists and favourable job and income conditions.
Retail sales jumped 29.8 percent to HK$45.2 billion ($5.76 billion) in February, government data showed on Tuesday. In volume terms, retail sales grew 28.2 percent.
It was the strongest growth in the city’s retail sales since February 2010, when they soared 35.8 percent in value terms and 30.6 percent in volume terms.
“Looking ahead, the outlook for retail sales should remain positive in the near term, underpinned by upbeat local consumer sentiment amid a full employment situation and by continued improvement in inbound tourism,” the government said.
Retail sales in January expanded a revised 4.2 percent in value terms and grew a revised 2.3 percent in volume terms.
For the first two months of 2018, total retail sales increased 15.7 percent in value terms and rose 13.9 percent in volume terms.
As retail sales are affected by distortions from the Lunar New Year, analysts usually consider combined January and February figures for a more accurate trend. The new year was in January last year but fell in February this year.
Analysts expect the recovery in Hong Kong’s retail sales to continue this year helped by nearly full employment, with the jobless rate at its lowest in around two decades, and tourism.
February tourist arrivals rose 26.3 percent from a year earlier to 5.28 million, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Mainland visitors, which accounted for 83.3 percent of the total, rose 40.2 percent.
For the first two months, total tourist arrivals rose 9.9 percent, while mainland visitor numbers surged 13.6 percent.
PwC expects 4-6 percent growth in the city’s retail sales this year. Hang Seng Bank estimates 4 percent.
The Hong Kong Retail Management Association, which forecast 3-4 percent growth in retail sales this year, said luxury goods, cosmetic and home appliance segments are set to drive growth in the city’s retail market in 2018.
Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts, jumped 33.7 percent in February, marking their strongest growth since June 2013, and compared with a revised 10.7 percent rise in January.
Medicines and cosmetics jumped 23.7 percent in February compared with 12.1 percent growth in January, while department stores rose 30.8 percent against a 4.6 percent drop in January.
Cosmetics chain Sa Sa International said last month that retail sales in Hong Kong and Macau rose 14.6 percent on year in January-February due to an increase in store traffic.
$1 = 7.8490 Hong Kong dollars Editing by Jacqueline Wong