Financial services boost income in first quarter
By AMY CHEW
BUSINESS receipts in financial services, other than banking, increased significantly in the first quarter of this year on the back of a buoyant stock market and property sector.
Growth in business receipts in business services jumped by 32 per cent in value for the first quarter over the same period last year, according to official figures released yesterday.
The first quarter saw a marked increase in activities in listed companies and mutual fund agencies, in line with the buoyancy of the Hong Kong stock market during late last year and the early part of this year.
Hongkong Bank economic adviser Jim Wong said the turnover of the stock market in the first quarter of this year was about $430 billion.
This compared with a turnover of about $180 billion in the first quarter of last year.
''Comparing the two sets of figures, you can see that the turnover in the stock market more than doubled in the first quarter of this year,'' Mr Wong said.
At the beginning of this year, the Hang Seng index was between 9,000 and 10,000 compared with the same period last year, when the index stood at between 5,000 and 6,000.
The increase in business services was also attributable to a large increase in legal and advertising services.
Mr Wong said that the growth in the first quarter also reflected the increased activities in the property market, which accounted for the rise in legal and advertising business for property transactions.
W I Carr economist Richard Staite said the service industry accounted for about 75 per cent of the territory's gross domestic product (GDP).
The strong growth in the service sector in the first quarter could help this year's GDP growth reach a similar rate as last year's, which was 5.3 per cent.
However, both economists warned that the first quarter's growth rate could not be sustained because the stock market had come down and there was less activity in the property sector.
Mr Wong believed that while a slowdown was imminent, the second quarter's figure would not fall too much as the property sector was still quite buoyant in the month of April.
''Lots of transactions were concluded in March and finalised in April,'' he said.
Mr Staite expected the service sector to decelerate as the increase in interest rates had dampened the stock market and the property sector.
This, in turn, would lead to a slowdown in financial services and the retail sector.