China’s economy grows 6.9% in first quarter

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BEIJING: China's economy grew 6.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, government data showed yesterday, beating expectations in the latest sign of stabilisation for the world's second-largest economy.

Beijing has said it wants to transition away from a reliance on debt-fuelled investment and towards a consumer-driven economic model, but the transition has proved bumpy.

The economy grew at just 6.7 per cent in 2016, its slowest rate in a quarter of a century.

"For the first time in the recent years, China starts a year with a strong headline GDP," Mr Raymond Yeung of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group told Bloomberg News.

"Thanks to strong investment and property, the economy is performing well."

The reading marked the second quarterly improvement since the final three months of 2014.

It was better than the median analyst expectation of 6.8 percent in an AFP poll, and also up on the fourth quarter figure.

"The national economy in the first quarter has maintained the momentum of steady and sound development," the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement.

It added that "positive changes kept emerging and major indicators performed better than expected".

Yesterday's data also showed China's industrial output growth rose to 7.6 per cent year-on-year in March, beating a Bloomberg estimate of 6.3.

Retail spending rebounded to a forecast-beating 10.9 per cent, while fixed-asset investment rose 9.2 per cent in the first three months of the year, representing a slight acceleration from February.

The readings follow data showing robust foreign trade and a further expansion in factory activity driven by a pick-up in production and demand last month.

The faster growth rate was driven by a pick-up in industry and construction, Mr Brian Jackson of IHS Global Insight said, adding that "mining, manufacturing and utilities growth all accelerated", while the services sector slowed.

The government has trimmed its 2017 GDP growth target to "around 6.5 per cent".- AFP