Hong Kong remains the city with the highest retail rents in the world, according to research released by global property adviser CBRE.

The CBRE rankings of prime global retail rents saw little change in the first quarter of this year compared to the prior quarter. Hong Kong is at the top of the rankings with retail rents at US$3,864 per square foot per annum. New York remained in second position at $2,475 per square foot per annum.

The rest of the top five remained unchanged, with Sydney third, followed by Tokyo and London. Competition in London's West End contributed to an annual rental increase of 5.8%.

Global rents increased by 0.8% quarter over quarter as concerns over the eurozone debt crisis and weak global economic growth continue to affect consumer and retailer confidence.

The Americas saw the largest rent growth, up 3.4% over the previous quarter, driven by demand in Washington DC, Miami and Seattle. The 0.5% growth registered in Asia Pacific came from strong interest from international, fashion and luxury retailers.

Europe, Middle East and Africa continued to be a target for many American brands, but the regions experienced significant rental declines in some markets, including Athens and Belgrade, and averaged a quarterly decline of 0.2%.

"Overall, this quarter has seen more positive aspects than the last; with improved consumer spending as well as steady occupier demand and new shopping centres bringing benefits to emerging markets," said CBRE global chief economist Ray Torto. 

"Despite concerns over the eurozone and a slowing world economy, retailer demand for prime space in major cities remains strong; however, prime space is in short supply in many markets.

"This mismatch between demand and supply means that activity levels are not as high as they could be. Equally, retailers continue to target the best locations in the more mature markets of Western Europe and the wealthier markets in the Asia Pacific region."