China economic activity slows in April after good first quarter

Posted May 16, 2017

China's factory output and fixed asset investment growth cooled more than expected in April, adding to signs that momentum in the world's second-biggest economy is slowing from a strong start in the first quarter.

Growth in property investment, which mainly focuses on residential but also includes commercial and office space, accelerated to 9.6 percent in April from a year earlier, compared to 9.4 percent in March, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Retail sales grew 10.7% in April from a year earlier, slowing from a 10.9% increase, maintaining the same pace as in March.

China's investment in fixed assets rose 8.9 percent year on year in the first four months of 2017, easing pace from 9.2 percent in the first quarter but reflecting the ongoing restructuring of the economy, as investment growth rate in the service sector far exceeded the industrial sector.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted factory output would grow by 7.1 percent in April, easing from March's 7.6 percent.

For the first four months of the year, crude throughput was up 3.1 percent from a year ago at 182.25 million tonnes.

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The slowdown in retail turnover was moderate, with 10.7 per cent year-on-year growth only just below March's 10.9 per cent, and slightly ahead of typical economist forecasts.

"All the data sends the same message: The economy slowed down meaningfully in April", Larry Hu, head of China economics at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News.

Private investment accounts for about 60 percent of overall investment in China. However, "we're still some way off from the economy weakening to the point where it will test the tolerance of the urgency to address some of these financial risk issues (is even greater)", he said.

Total retail sales of consumer goods hit 2.73 trillion yuan (about 395.4 billion USA dollars) last month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Analysts had forecast industrial production to rise 7%, retail sales to increase 10.8% and fixed-asset investment to increase grow 9.1%.