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China GDP growth slows to 7% in 1st quarter

CHINA'S economic growth slowed to 7 percent in the first quarter, within a stable range albeit down from the pace of 7.3 percent in the final quarter of last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said today.

The country's gross domestic product amounted to 14.06 trillion yuan (US$2.26 trillion) in the first three months, better than market expectations, although it was the slowest quarterly expansion since the first quarter of 2009.

Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman with the bureau, said China's economic growth remained stable in the face of weak global demand and mounting downward pressure in the domestic market.

"Despite slower growth, China's employment, inflation and people's confidence are stabilizing along with accelerating industrial reforms and restructuring," Sheng said. "We see positive factors accumulating, and in the next phase, we will try to carry out various targets and missions set by the central government in rebalancing the economy."

The official annual growth target has been set at around 7 percent for this year, lowered from the previous goal of 7.5 percent. The Chinese authorities have proclaimed the "new normal" of a bit slower expansion but with higher quality under deepening reforms.

In the first quarter, China's expansion was led by the service sector, which gained 7.9 percent to 7.26 trillion yuan. The manufacturing sector added 6.4 percent to 6.03 trillion yuan, while the agriculture rose 3.2 percent to 777 billion yuan.

The industrial production increased 6.4 percent in the January-March period. Factories reported an expansion of 5.6 percent in March alone, down from the pace of 6.8 percent in the first two months.

Fixed-asset investment grew 13.5 percent to 7.75 trillion yuan during the period, weakening from the increase of 13.9 percent in the first two months. Capital flowing into the property rose 8.5 percent, less than last year's expansion of 10.9 percent and indicating continued correction in the sector.

Retail sales, a broad gauge of domestic consumption, accelerated 10.6 percent to 7 trillion yuan in the first quarter. One spotlight fell on the online spending, which surged 41.3 percent to 760 billion yuan.


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