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Chinese Consumers Are Bullish on Spending Again

China Unicom backs Hong Kong's mobile spectrum reassignment plan despite industry concernsChina Unicom backs Hong Kong's mobile spectrum reassignment plan despite industry concerns
Chinese customers exit from a store of China Unicom in Yunyang county, Chongqing, China on February 25, 2016.Chen jianhua — Imaginechina/AP

China’s consumers are more eager to spend and buy property than they’ve been since 2009, according to a survey the People’s Bank of China released over the weekend.

The central bank’s latest quarterly survey of 20,000 urban households found that the percentage of consumers who would rather spend than invest was the highest it has been since the global financial meltdown, supporting recent economic data that shows Chinese consumers have retained a brighter outlook than headlines over the past year had predicted.

The feedback on property may have been most surprising. Housing prices have skyrocketed in big cities from Shanghai to Shenzhen, and in smaller cities across the country. A 70-city housing price index rose on a population-weighted basis by 9.7% in August, after jumping 8.3% in July, according to Goldman Sachs (GS) in Hong Kong. Yet in the central bank survey, more respondents said they were planning to buy a house than six months earlier.

Houses weren’t the only big ticket item lusted after. A record 17.4% of consumers said they were in the market for a new car over the next three months. And with what they are buying, it’s almost as if the Chinese are taking cues from drivers in suburban America: China’s car market, the world’s largest, is picking up again thanks to record sales of SUVs and a growing interest in pickup trucks.

The central bank also surveyed businesses’ views on the macro economy, which after falling for most of 2014 and 2015, jumped over the last several quarters.

The panic over China’s imminent economic stumble in the beginning of 2016, and the panic’s long hangover, have officially abated. For now.