TOKYO -- Lunar New Year in China is the time for travel -- traditionally, to visit family -- and for big spending, so it has become a closely watched barometer for the health of the Chinese economy. With China's growth slowing and its consumers tightening their purse strings, this year's celebration has been given particular scrutiny.
The Year of the Pig appears to be off to a slower start, and some companies are lowering their expectations for the rest of the year. Spending on retail goods and dining out during the seven-day holiday break reached 1.005 trillion yuan ($149 billion), exceeding 1 trillion for the first time, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. But the 8.5% year-over-year growth was the lowest since 2005, when the statistics began to be compiled in the current form.