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The four-day sale has so far brought sellers 16 times as many orders by value than Amazon's global Prime Day last month.

 China's Alibaba said orders on its e-commerce platforms during the Singles' Day shopping extravaganza had exceeded $56 billion (£42.2 billion) by Wednesday morning, as lockdown-weary consumers splashed out on as many as 16 million discounted goods.

The world's biggest sales event — eclipsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States — spans four main days this year, and so far has brought sellers 16 times as many orders by value than Amazon.com Inc's two-day global Prime Day last month.

Such is its size that its performance is widely considered indicative of China's post-virus economic recovery.

"Because of Covid-19, many Chinese cannot go overseas," Vice President Liu Bo told reporters. "This actually stimulates online consumption."

So far, the performance is likely a relief for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd after losing about 10 percent of its market value last week when regulators scuppered the listing of fintech affiliate Ant Group.

The firm began sales early this year to give lesser-known brands more exposure. It set primary discount days for November 1 through November 3 as well as the usual November 11, and will calculate gross merchandise volume (GMV) over all 11 days.

The event, launched in 2009, is usually a splashy, single-day affair with live performances and which last year clocked record GMV of $38.4 billion. This year, Katy Perry appeared at Alibaba's gala, albeit via livestream.

As well as offering straightforward price cuts, the event sees shoppers across Alibaba's numerous platforms playing mobile games for deals, combining purchases across shops and placing orders in the sale's early hours to get the best offers.

As of 12:30 a.m. (4.30 p.m. GMT) on November 11, GMV had surpassed 372.3 billion yuan ($56.3 billion) with orders peaking at a record 583,000 per second, Alibaba said. Over two million products featured in the sale for the first time — double last year.

Over 340 firms, including Apple Inc , L'Oreal SA and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], have exceeded 100 million yuan in sales, with 13 brands recording GMV above 1 billion yuan, Alibaba said.

Japan's Fast Retailing Co Ltd said its Uniqlo brand ranked top for womenswear and menswear on Alibaba marketplace Tmall.

Top categories of imported products by GMV as of 9:00 a.m. were food supplements, infant milk formula and beauty. Sun Jian, event head of logistics, told reporters Alibaba was sanitising all parcels from abroad given the Covid-19 pandemic.

Analysts also expect this year to be a boon for luxury brands, as consumers accustomed to going overseas for high-end goods have been thwarted by coronavirus border closures.

A poll of Singles' Day spending by Sina Entertainment found just 4 percent of 191,000 respondents planned to splurge over 10,000 yuan, versus 43 percent who aimed to spend less than 1,000 yuan.

To encourage spending, livestreamers thronged pop-up film studios at a building near Alibaba's Hangzhou headquarters, touting the merits of goods on sale.

Luo Lima estimated she had been on camera promoting maternity products for 24 hours over the course of this year's sales period, versus six hours on Singles' Day two years ago.

"We stream continuously for six hours, with no break," she said. "We start by eating a full meal, and getting in a good state of mind. We also prepare throat lozenges and vitamin drinks."

Alibaba rivals JD.com Inc and Pinduoduo Inc as well as firms such as Douyin — the Chinese version of Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd's TikTok — are also holding Singles' Day events.

JD.com, which started promotions on Nov. 1, said orders as of 2:26 p.m. had set a record of 243.1 billion yuan.

By Josh Horwitz with additional reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; editors: Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing.

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