China output, sales and investment growth at multi-year lows – govt

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BEIJING: Growth in China’s industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment all fell to multi-year lows during January and February, official data showed on Wednesday, as the world’s second-largest economy expands at its slowest pace in a quarter century.

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Industrial output, which measures production at China’s factories, workshops and mines, rose 6.8 percent year-on-year in January and February, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Wednesday.

That was the lowest since a reading of 5.7 percent in December 2008, according to previous figures.

Retail sales, a key indicator of consumer spending, gained 10.7 percent during the first two months from the year before, the NBS said, the worst since 9.4 percent in February 2006.

And fixed asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, expanded 13.9 percent during the period, the NBS added — the lowest for 13 years, since 13.7 percent for the whole of 2001.

The NBS released statistics covering two months to ease out distortions due to China’s Lunar New year holiday last month.

The data are the latest snapshot of the health of the Asian colossus, a major driver of the global economy but which is in a delicate transition phase away from decades of frequent double-digit annual growth to a new, slower model authorities envision as more sustainable.

China’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 7.4 percent last year, the worst result since 1990, and last week leaders lowered the country’s 2015 GDP growth target to “approximately 7 percent,” from last year’s objective of about 7.5 percent.

Data so far this year have indicated a further slowing and the People’s Bank of China announced a cut benchmark deposit and lending interest rates in late February for the second time in three months, citing “historically low inflation.”

The gain in industrial output fell short of a median expansion of 7.7 percent in a survey of economists by Bloomberg News.

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, last week cut the target for fixed asset investment growth to 15.0 percent in 2015 from last year’s 17.5 percent, in line with authorities’ stated aim of restructuring the economy.

Consumer inflation rebounded in February from a more-than-five-year low, official data showed Tuesday, but a further plunge in factory gate costs, a leading indicator for retail prices, compounded nagging worries that China could soon face debilitating deflation.

Analysts attributed the rise in consumer inflation to 1.4 percent largely to one-off effects related to the Chinese Lunar New Year, and expect increases to moderate in coming months. The producer price index, which has been falling for three years, declined 4.8 percent last month.

AFP

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