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China to step up financial support to COVID-hit catering, tourism sectors

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BEIJING — China will step up financial support to small and private businesses in the catering and tourism sectors that were hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic, the country’s banking and insurance regulator said in a statement on Tuesday.

Contact-intensive services sector suffered the most amid China’s anti-virus curbs which shut many restaurants down and restricted tourists’ travels.

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After the National Health Commission on Monday announced China would end quarantine requirements for inbound travelers from Jan. 8, some people flocked to travel sites on Tuesday ahead of borders reopening.

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“The recovery and expansion of consumption will be a priority,” China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) said in the statement.

The purchase of big-ticket items such as new energy vehicles and green home appliances will be encouraged, CBIRC said.

China will also step up financial support for private investment and private enterprises, the regulator added.

Retail sales, a key gauge of consumption, fell 5.9% in November amid broad-based weakness in the services sector, which was the biggest contraction since May when commercial hub Shanghai was under lockdown.

Policymakers have set out plans to expand domestic consumption and investment following the relaxation of stringent COVID-related restrictions and subsequent surge of infections.

Amid protracted weakness in the property sector, the CBIRC pledged to satisfy reasonable financing needs and to improve leading developers’ balance sheets.

The regulator will also proactively respond to the risks of credit asset quality deteriorating and will encourage banks to reinforce the disposal of non-performing loans, according to the CBIRC statement. (Reporting by Ellen Zhang and Meg Shen; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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