May 15, 5:59 AM EDT

Hong Kong quarterly economic growth tepid as Chinese tourist numbers weaken

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HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong's economy expanded tepidly in the first quarter as exports slumped and fewer mainland Chinese tourists visited following a backlash against their influx.

The Asian financial center's economic output grew 0.4 percent in the January-March period compared with the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, the government said Friday.

Officials reported "visibly slower growth in tourist arrivals and weaker tourist spending."

Mainland Chinese make up most of the visitors to the former British colony and they have been estimated to account for a third of all retail sales.

But their numbers have fallen in recent months following rowdy protests by activists angered at how their voracious buying of everything from baby formula to luxury goods has warped the local economy.

Exports were "lackluster" as declines in shipments to Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan outweighed growth in exports to the U.S. and some Southeast Asian markets including India grew, the government said.

Hong Kong is a major transshipment point for goods moving from mainland Chinese factories to markets overseas.

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