HONG KONG'S exporters claim international pre-Christmas sales are varying widely with a robust performance in the United States but lacklustre results in Japan. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council has monitored sales in its three major markets - Europe, Japan and the US - and found a wide-ranging pattern of consumer demand for the territory's goods. An increase in sales of between five and seven per cent over last year is expected in the US, a slight fall on 1993's year-on-year rise of 7.5 per cent. The US traditionally accounts for about 33 per cent of total demand. A spokesman for the council said: 'A healthy economy, coupled with low inflation and strong employment growth, helps to lift consumer confidence. Even in the Pacific states, where spending was dampened by a soft economy last year, retailers are generally upbeat and many shoppers plan to spend more money this holiday.' But he added that the recent rise in interest rates had made consumers more cautious and prompted retailers to offer discounts. Concerns about another rise had dampened demand for big-ticket household items - such as fridges, cars and washing machines - but demand for consumer electronics is still maintaining good growth. 'Toys and electronic video games, as usual, are much sought after. By contrast, luxurious items like fine jewellery and high-priced watches have been doing less well.' In Britain, sales are expected to grow by about 3.5 per cent to four per cent with jewellery, consumer electronics and electrical appliances among the most popular items. 'Toys and watches, which were losers last year, have a better outlook in the upcoming season. Meanwhile, the very mild early winter has led to slower sales of warm clothing, whereas fur sales are negligible.' Buying in Germany has been cautious but good results are expected for consumer electronic items, particularly portable telephones.