Apr 16, 2015

    China's Q1 growth at post-crisis low of 7.0%


    CHINA'S economy expanded 7.0 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, official data showed yesterday, slumping to a new post-global-financial-crisis low and raising analyst expectations for more action to bolster growth.

    The figure announced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was lower than expansion of 7.3 per cent in the final three months of last year, but exceeded the median forecast of 6.9 per cent in an Agence France-Presse survey of 15 economists.

    The result remained the worst for a single quarter since the first three months of 2009, when the economy grew 6.6 per cent in the depths of the global financial crisis.

    China, the world's No. 2 economy and a key driver of global growth, advanced only 7.4 per cent last year, down from 7.7 per cent in 2013 and its slowest annual rate since 3.8 per cent in 1990.

    However, NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said: "Despite the slowing down of economic growth, employment, consumer price and market expectation remained stable."

    The economy faced "downward pressures", he acknowledged, but "still has the potential and conditions to maintain stable growth".

    China's leadership appears comfortable with weaker expansion, a development top officials say heralds a "new normal" of more stable, consumer-driven growth, in line with an increasingly mature economy.

    The economy is shifting to become more balanced and efficient, largely in line with policymakers' set goals, reported the state-owned Xinhua News Agency.

    Average disposable income growth in rural regions continued to outpace that in urban areas, and the service sector's contribution rose to 51.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, up 1.8 percentage points from a year earlier, it added.

    Still, the government wants to avoid too fast a deceleration, which could hurt job creation, and has been taking monetary steps to bolster growth.

    NBS said industrial output, which measures production at factories, workshops and mines, rose 5.6 per cent year-on-year last month.

    Retail sales, a key indicator of consumer spending, gained 10.2 per cent last month from the year before, NBS said.

    And fixed asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, grew 13.5 per cent year-on-year in January-March, NBS added.

    All the rises were below estimates by earlier Bloomberg surveys.

    More bad news came from the real estate sector, a major economic pillar, where investment rose an annual 8.5 per cent in the first quarter, the weakest rate since 2009.

    This year, the central People's Bank of China cut benchmark interest rates for the second time in three months, loosened bank reserve requirement ratios to spur lending and took steps to boost the slumping property market.

    Economists broadly expect more such moves, as the authorities seek to keep growth within striking distance of their "about 7.0 per cent" target for this year. AGENCIES