China economic activity slows in April after good first quarter

China April industrial production up less than seen 6.5%, retail sales gain 10.7%

China economic growth takes another step back

Economic activity in Asia's largest economy was weaker-than-expected last month as presaged by recent purchasing managers' indices for factory and services sector activity.

In the first four months, total retail sales of consumer goods rose 10.2 percent year on year, 0.2 percentage points faster than the growth in the first quarter, buttressed by vigorous consumption growth in rural areas and online shopping, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Monday.

Industrial output growth in China slowed from a 7.6% year-on-year clip in April to 6.5% for March (consensus: 7.0%), with softness in overseas demand and domestic consumption the chief factors, according to Julian Evans-Pritchard at Capital Economics. Infrastructure investment and property investment, however, reported solid growth, increasing 23.3% y/y (ytd) and 9.3% y/y, respectively.

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Fixed asset investment in the manufacturing sector also slowed over Jan-April, with growth of 4.9 per cent down from 5.8 per cent in the first quarter.

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

The weaker April data dovetails with other signs that China's economic engine is losing steam after a surprisingly strong start to the year.

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In March, China's natural gas production rose to a record 13.6 billion cubic meters (480.3 billion cubic feet), up 10.5 percent over March a year ago, as economic growth spurred more power use in the industrial sector. Although that figure looked impressive on paper, it was still below the previous month's reading of 10.8 percent.

However, Beijing is not expected to let growth slow too much ahead of the 19th Party Congress later this year. 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.

China's liquidity conditions have also been tightened in the past few weeks, driven mainly by fortified regulatory efforts at financial deleveraging since late March.

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