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China: Economic activity slows in the first quarter

April 15, 2013

In the first quarter, GDP grew 7.7% over the same period last year. The print was below both the 7.9% rise observed in the last quarter of 2012 and market expectations that had the economy expanding 8.0%.

Although the National Bureau of Statistics does not provide a breakdown of GDP by expenditure, additional data suggest that private consumption appears to have lost momentum in the first quarter, while investment gained some steam on the back of government efforts to support economic growth. Retail sales added only a nominal 12.4% in the first quarter, which is below the 14.9% rise observed in the fourth quarter 2012. On the other hand, urban fixed-asset investment growth, which includes capital and construction investment, expanded an accumulated 20.9% in nominal terms in the first quarter, which is up from the accumulated 20.6% rise seen at the end of 2012. On the external side of the economy, both exports and imports rose at a faster pace than the previous quarter.

Data from the production side showed that growth in the industrial sector decelerated in the first three months of the year, expanding 7.8% in the first quarter (2012: +8.1% year-on-year), whereas the primary sector deteriorated markedly (2012: +4.5% yoy; Q1 2013: +3.4% yoy). On the other hand, growth in services rose 8.3% (2012: +8.1% yoy).

A quarter-on-quarter analysis corroborates the deceleration suggested by annual figures, as GDP rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6% in the first quarter, below the 2.0% expansion recorded in the fourth quarter 2012.

The government has set a growth target of 7.5% for this year. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panellists expect GDP to expand 8.2% in 2013, which is unchanged from last month's projection. In 2014, the panel sees economic growth at 8.0%.


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China GDP Chart


China GDP Q1 2013

Note: Year-on-year changes of GDP in %.
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) and FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast.


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