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Hong Kong residents cautiously optimistic about Year of the Horse

Tens of thousands of worshippers make offerings on the eve of the Lunar New Year at the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple, praying for better luck and fortune.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents are welcoming the Year of the Horse as the Year of the Snake slithers away.

Many are saddling up to improving prospects in the New Year but fortune tellers warn it will be a bumpy ride.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, tens of thousands of worshippers make offerings at the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple, praying for better luck and fortune.

Geomancers warn that it is a Wood Horse Year but many are cautiously optimistic about their prospects.

One resident said: "I think it should be about the same. Hong Kong is an externally-oriented economy that is greatly affected by the European, US and Chinese markets."

Another commented: "I think the economy won't be quite as good, as the Chinese economy is slowing, so there will be an impact.

"The employment situation is better, as companies are hiring. Workers are more demanding after they implemented the minimum wage, so it is harder for bosses to find staff."

And it would be better to heed the advice of the idiom, never look a gift horse in the mouth, as lucky red packets given out this year will probably contain the same amount of money as last year.

Most are feeling less generous with higher food prices and rents, and Hong Kong's stock and property markets also had a lacklustre year.

The Year of the Horse is spurring sales of gold in the territory, with gold prices being 20 per cent lower than last year.

In the animal zodiac, the horse is a symbol of energy and wealth.

One goldsmith said: "There have been a lot of tourists from the mainland spending in Hong Kong. Business should be better, I am expecting it to increase by 10-20 per cent."

More than 500,000 mainland tourists are expected to visit the city during the Spring Festival.

Meanwhile, many locals flock to the flower market to buy tangerines and cherry blossoms as they signify good luck. This year, flower prices are up by about 20 per cent because of higher cultivation costs as well as a stronger renminbi. But that has not deterred the crowds.

And for the punters, as the Year of the Horse begins, they will be off to the races.

The Chinese New Year Raceday on Sunday is expected to be very popular, with a payout of up to US$8.8 million. 

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