China's economic growth strengthened unexpectedly in the first quarter, driven by investment, exports and domestic demand, official data showed Monday.
Gross domestic product expanded 6.9 percent year-on-year, slightly faster than the 6.8 percent growth seen in the fourth quarter of 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
This was the fastest expansion since the third quarter of 2015. The annual growth was expected to stabilize at 6.8 percent.
The government targets slightly slower growth of about 6.5 percent this year after attaining 6.7 percent growth in 2016. The 6.7 percent expansion was the weakest in 26 years.
Quarter-on-quarter, GDP gained 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2017.
Industrial production growth accelerated notably to 7.6 percent in March versus 6.3 percent in the first two months of this year, marking the fastest pace since 2014. Production was expected to gain 6.3 percent.
Retail sales growth was a double-digit 10.9 percent in March after easing to 9.5 percent in the January to February period. Economists had forecast the rate to improve to 9.7 percent.
Industrial output grew 6.8 percent and retail sales climbed 10 percent from the previous year in the first quarter.
In the first quarter, fixed asset investment grew 9.2 percent from the prior year, faster than the 8.9 percent expansion seen in the January to February period. The annual growth was forecast to ease to 8.8 percent.
The upshot is that China's economy continued to experience strong growth last quarter and the upbeat data for March suggests that some of this strength will likely extend into the second quarter, Julian Evans-Pritchard, a China economist at Capital Economics, said.
Nonetheless, with property controls starting to bite and the acceleration in credit growth that helped drive the recent recovery now being reversed, the economist still expects the economy to begin slowing before long.
In a report released last week, the World Bank said China's growth is set to continue easing steadily, to 6.5 percent this year and 6.3 percent in 2018-19.
The moderation in growth would be the result of the government's measures to reduce excess capacity and credit expansion, the lender said.
In the first quarter, private property investment surged 9.1 percent, following the 8.9 percent increase posted in the January to February period.
by RTT Staff Writer
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