by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 13, 2013
Industrial output in China rose 9.3 percent in April, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Monday, accelerating from March but below market expectations, underscoring sluggish growth momentum.
The April figure was an improvement on an increase of 8.9 percent in March but was still slower than a median forecast of 9.5 percent growth in a poll of nine economists by Dow Jones Newswires.
Fixed-asset investment -- a key measure of government spending -- rose 20.6 percent in the first four months of the year, the NBS said, slightly down from 20.9 percent in the first quarter.
Retail sales were up 12.8 percent year-on-year in April, picking up marginally from 12.6 percent in March, it said in a statement.
The figures are a sign that recovery is still uncertain in the world's second-largest economy, analysts said.
"This is not the start of a rally, it is a sputtering whimper as momentum continues to fade," said Ren Xianfang and Alistair Thornton, economists with research firm IHS Global Insight, in a report.
Slowing investment suggested weakness in manufacturing and infrastructure construction, they said, adding it could decelerate further as tightening measures on the housing market start to bite.
Chinese authorities have sought for the past three years to control property price rises with purchasing restrictions, higher minimum downpayments and taxes in some cities on multiple and non-locally-owned homes.
In March, they issued new rules including a capital gains tax of 20 percent on profits from residential property sales.
Homeowners were previously taxed just one or two percent of the sale price.
With a series of economic indicators released recently, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said they saw "more downside risk" to their forecast of 8.1 percent growth in the Chinese economy.
China grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, with gross domestic product expanding 7.8 percent in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.
Economic growth rebounded to 7.9 percent in the final quarter of 2012, raising hopes for a recovery, but in the first three months of this year growth slowed to 7.7 percent.
The official purchasing managers' index (PMI), a widely watched indicator of the health of the Chinese economy, slowed to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March.
The consumer price index -- a main gauge of inflation -- increased by 2.4 percent last month, lower than the official target of 3.5 percent for 2013 and reflecting subdued domestic demand.
Chinese leaders have said expansion will slow in the next stage of the nation's development from the near-double-digit yearly rises of recent decades, as they try to retool the economy to emphasise consumer demand as the key growth driver, rather than investment and exports.
Analysts called on Beijing to speed up structural reforms, warning that credit stimulus alone could not change economic fundamentals and risked worsening the country's overcapacity problems.
"The China story remains an unsustainable credit story, and we have seen little to suggest that the fundamentals are improving," said Ren and Thornton.
"For this to happen, we are looking for reform, not stimulus or monetary policy tweaks. And we would suggest that so far, the new administration has been long on reform rhetoric, short on reform action."
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